Despite public opposition to an after-school program, the East Laurinburg Board of Commissioners approved a request Tuesday night to grant a business license to the project.
The program called — HYPE — will host children as old as high-school-aged for three hours after school in a residential area on Sixth Street. HYPE will offer tutoring and after school recreation to the students.
During the meeting a group opposed to the request presented the board with a petition signed by 99 East Laurinburg residents.
The board met briefly in closed session to review the petition. When commissioners returned to the meeting, East Laurinburg Mayor Harry Pittman declared petition valid and prompted the board to vote on the matter.
“… They have satisfied all of the requirements to be granted a license,” said Pittman, adding that he had confirmed that the program would not require rezoning.
“The only limitation would be that they can only have 15 children per bathroom,” said Pittman.
Commissioners Betty Robbins and Cleon Robinson voted to grant the license while Commissioner Wayne Caulder dissented.
East Laurinburg resident Vince Thompson, who presented the petition, said the board did not appear to consider the signatures.
“I feel like they already had their decision made during last week’s meeting,” said Thompson.
Chief among Thompson’s concerns is the disturbance that the after-school program might cause the Sixth Street neighborhood. Citing a number of problems that locals have had with youths from the East Laurinburg Alternative Learning Academy, Thompson said that residents are concerned that there might be similar problems with the HYPE program.
“I’m all for after school programs, but when you’re talking about high school aged students — a neighborhood isn’t the right place,” said Thompson, who expressed concern that program supervisors might not be able to control older teenagers.
After the meeting, Robbins said that most residents likely do not understand the nature of the program. She said that students will be bussed to and from the location and will only be at the site for three hours a day.
In other business, the board announced plans to have an October festival similar to this past weekend’s East Laurinburg Spring Fest, which Pittman said “went very well.”
“We want to really make something out of this,” said Pittman of the festival program, which has and will continue to raise money for improvements to the town’s aging municipal building.