The effect of closing Red Oak Elementary School was one of the issues discussed at last week’s meeting of the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education.
Red Oak Elementary School, Swift Creek Elementary School and Cedar Grove Elementary School are under consideration for closure and consolidation as the school board discusses plans to build a new elementary school in the Red Oak area. Under state law, school closing studies must be conducted and a public hearing must be held before these schools can be closed.
The study came to the same conclusion as did the study for Cedar Grove Elementary School.
“In the event that Red Oak Elementary School is recommended for closure, it is expected to result not only in significant cost savings for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools but is also expected to directly benefit the affected students,” the study said.
Red Oak Elementary School, which is located at 5603 Red Oak Road in Red Oak, serves roughly 245 students in kindergarten through second grade. The 51,750-square-foot building has the capacity to serve 335 students, according to the state Department of Public Instruction School Planning Formula.
Parts of the school facility are more than 80 years old. In 1999, the Department of Public Instruction recommended that the school district “continue medium to long-range use of Red Oak Elementary, but plan to replace the main building, mobile units and replace the three classrooms (1959) with facilities to house a total of approximately 600 pre-K-5 students.”
The cost to upgrade and repair the school now would be impractical, the study presented to school board members last week stated.
“In the event that Red Oak Elementary School is not recommended for closure, major renovations and facility replacement are required to bring the facility up to current standards. The renovations and replacement would total approximately $17,274,836 in capital costs,” the study said. “The cost to remedy these safety and infrastructure problems exceeds the total value of the building and as such make replacement the most feasible option.”
By comparison, the estimated cost to replace the main structure with an 80,000-square-foot facility to house 850 students was $16,280,000 in 2015, the study said. Nash County commissioners already have committed to providing roughly $20,000,000 for the construction of the new larger facility that would accommodate students from all three schools under consideration for closure.
Since transportation was a prime consideration of parents and community members at earlier forums, the study also looked at times students would spend on a school bus if the school closed.
“Currently, Red Oak Elementary School shares, with Swift Creek Elementary School, seven buses that operate daily to transport students to and from school,” the study said. “The average ride time for students is 29.4 minutes with an average route distance of 15.3 miles. The average maximum length of a school bus route for students in Red Oak Elementary’s current attendance zone is 66 minutes.”
If the schools were consolidated and the number of buses remained the same, those times could decrease, the study said.
“Models show an average ride time for students within the current Red Oak Elementary attendance zone at 28.5 minutes and an average route distance of 14.7 miles. In this consolidation scenario, the average maximum ride length would decrease to 58 minutes. Closing Red Oak Elementary School and consolidation into a new elementary school may result in shorter ride times and distance traveled for students,” the study said.
Parents and community members will have an opportunity to learn more and share their thoughts at a public forum slated for Thursday. The public hearing to all three potential school closures will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria of Northern Nash High School.