Scotland committee gets look at 5 possible sites for new school

By: By Amber Hatten - [email protected]

LAURINBURG — School and county leaders got a look this week at five possible sites for the district’s new elementary school.

Members of the Committee of the Whole visited the sites on Monday in an activity bus with project manager Roger Ammons.

Three of the sites were located off U.S. 401, one was located just off North Main Street and one was off Old Lumberton Road just south of the Interstate 74 bypass.

The site off Old Lumberton Road was the most centrally located being just over one mile from both South Scotland and I. Ellis Johnson Elementary schools.

The sites were chosen earlier this year by a site selection committee made up of former school board member B.J. Gibson, county commissioner Guy McCook, one parent from South Scotland Elementary School and I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School and several community members.

The committee submitted the top three sites to the board in December.

School officials debated the sites in multiple closed session meetings in March but were unable to come to a consensus. Unable to agree on a location, school officials split consolidation into three phases instead of two in order to have more time to select a site.

With three newer board members — Caroline Banks, Rick Singletary and Herman Tyson — never having seen the sites being discussed, it was decided a field trip to view each of the five sites might help negotiations.

If the school district moves ahead with their consolidation plan, both schools will be closed and those students will be moved into the new elementary school as part of Phase III of consolidation.

During the tour, Ammons provided board members with the pros and cons of each site as well as the distance from South Scotland and I. Ellis Johnson. Keeping the distance minimal was important to the board members in order to try and get all bus ride times under one hour.

The school board went into closed session following the tour but did not take any action on site selection.

Prior to the field trip, board members learned the proposed financing for the additions to Laurel Hill and Sycamore Lane Elementary schools has been submitted to the Local Government Commission.

Assistant Superintendent Larry Johnson informed the board the Local Government Commission will review the financing and make a decision at their Sept. 12 meeting.

“Once they (LGC) have met on Sept, 12 and the decision is finalized then two weeks after that we can go to closing and move forward with consolidation,” said Johnson.

The general contractors — FBI Construction of our Florence was selected for the work on Laurel Hill and WC Construction of Winston-Salem was the winning bid for Sycamore Lane — have asked for authorization to begin some of the preliminary work prior to the financing approval.

Board attorney Nick Sojka requested additional information from the architect and general contractors before recommending the board approve the proposal.

In other business:

— The board learned the federal Title I allotment for Scotland County Schools this year is $2.6 million — which is just over $832 per pupil. Principals use the funds allotted to their respective schools to hire teachers. Each school receives a different amount of money based on its eligible student count.

— Jay Toland, chief finance officer, presented an amendment to the 2016-17 budget to include five new yellow school buses the district received from the state. In total, the five new buses cost $430,000.

The board will give approval for those the Title I budget and the budget amendment for the five new school buses as part of their regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 11.

Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.

By Amber Hatten

[email protected]