LAURINBURG — Now a week into summer break, Scotland County Schools staff are hoping to have middle school students assigned to either Carver or Spring Hill, and former Washington Park and Pate-Gardner teachers placed in the system’s remaining schools, by early July.
On June 8, the Scotland County Board of Education voted to close those elementary schools and reassign their students to Sycamore Lane, which since its construction in 1984 has served as a middle school.
The closures are expected to save the system $283,257 in utilities, transportation, and custodial services in the coming year, with potential for further savings by personnel reduction. They are the first step in a countywide redistricting scheme to reduce inefficiency in a system of underpopulated schools.
Sycamore Lane’s students will be reassigned to one of the district’s two middle schools, and families should be notified of their reassignment by July 1.
Generally, according to system spokesperson Meredith Bounds, those living on the east side of the county will attend Carver and those living on the west side will attend Spring Hill, with some exceptions.
“The lines get a little more detailed, we’re going to incorporate neighborhoods and clusters of kids in more concentrated populations (at the same school),” she said.
Lines will be adjusted to keep both schools’ populations near 650, depending on enrollment in the new science, technology, engineering, and math magnet program being implemented at Carver for the coming year. Applications for that program are open to all rising sixth graders in the county, and are due today.
“We want it pretty even,” said Larry Johnson, the system’s assistant superintendent for auxiliary services. “You might have 645 and 655, but we want it pretty equal on both sides. That’s why the STEM program came into play when we made that decision.”
The new principal of Sycamore Lane Elementary School will be announced “shortly,” according to Cory Satterfield, the system’s human resources superintendent. Sycamore Lane’s principal of 12 years, Rick Singletary, is retiring this summer.
Echoing the promise made by school board members all year as they evaluated redistricting proposals, Satterfield said that his intention is to reduce the system’s personnel numbers by attrition rather than laying off current employees.
“The teachers of the schools that are consolidating were given the option of three choices of where they would like to relocate,” he said.
“We also told them that we would be using data such as teacher evaluations, certifications, and seniority, but overall we would do what was in the best interest of the students in Scotland County Schools. We will definitely try to honor their requests, but we also use that criteria.”
Those decisions should also be made, and teachers notified, in the early part of July.
The school system is currently advertising more than 20 licensed positions available. Satterfield said that new teachers may be hired in subjects for which few teachers are certified, but that those currently with the system will have priority and may be given the opportunity to earn new certifications.
“The hiring season is now, everybody in North Carolina is hiring teachers for net year and we want to be proactive in our placement of teachers and our hiring of teachers,” he said.
Roger Ammons, the schools’ maintenance director, said that the Pate-Gardner and Washington Park buildings will not be clean and ready for either sale or demolition until the end of the calendar year.
“We will remove all furniture and we will remove any of the mechanical units that we could possibly use at another schools: air conditioning, heat pumps … we’ll be taking the cylinders out of the doors and replacing them with generic cylinders,” he said.
This summer, to convert Sycamore Lane to an elementary school, the principal changes will be to refit its restrooms for smaller children.
“We’re going to have to put smaller toilets in the bathroom and we’re going to have to lower the sinks to regulated heights for 6 to 9-year-olds,” said maintenance director Roger Ammons.
Sycamore Lane’s mobile units likely will not be removed from campus until this fall, according to Ammons, although they will no longer be in use as classrooms.
Since Spring Hill and Carver will both be serving a full house, special use classrooms will be divested of partitions to serve as full-sized, regular classrooms. The maintenance department is also busy moving furniture and packing the personal belongings of teachers moving from Pate-Gardner and Washington Park.
“Once we get teacher assignments, we will be moving teachers’ belongings back into the buildings where they will be teaching in the fall,” Ammons said.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.