Scotland school board OKs purchase of land for new building

By: By Amber Hatten -

LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Education is moving forward with the purchase of 29 acres of land off Old John’s Road in Laurinburg to build a new elementary school.

The school board unanimously voted to give approval for Board Attorney Nick Soijka to move forward with the purchase the land at a cost of $225,000.

The vote comes after the Scotland County Board of Commissioners agreed to Phase III of consolidation during a meeting earlier this month. The commissioners voted to provide the necessary funds, plus closing costs, from the current expense fund to capital outlay fund to allow for acquisition.

The next step for the school board will be to hold public input sessions on the closure of South Scotland and I. Ellis Johnson Elementary schools.

The students from those two schools will be moved into the new elementary school, which sits 3.3 miles from IEJ and 1.3 miles from South Scotland. The furthest bus pickup for IEJ students will be 5.7 miles and 10 miles for South Scotland students.

With the holidays quickly approaching, school board Chairman Jeff Byrd said the public input sessions will likely be held in January or February.

“We would like to get it out to the public what our plans are and what schools we are closing and hear their voice before we move forward with getting funded through the LGC,” Byrd told WLNC.

Board member Herman Tyson wanted to include in the announcement what input the public will have in terms of closing the schools and the construction of the new building.

Board member Rick Singletary added that people need to voice their opinions before the project is underway.

“We need to let the citizens of Scotland County when these things come up that they address them right then and not wait until after the fact,” Singletary said, “because after the baby is here, you can’t shove it back in. We get jammed up in a corner because citizens come to the meetings and say ‘well you’ve already made up our minds’ and that puts us in a bad position and almost gives folks a stick to beat us with.”

The projected cost of building the new elementary school is $18.58 million, with an additional $1.69 million in soft costs and bond fees, according to independent financial consultant First Tryon.

If Phase III of consolidation continues to move forward, the new elementary school would open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services Larry Johnson gave an update to the board on the progress of the additions at Sycamore Lane and Laurel Hill Elementary schools. He said work began on Monday at the schools.

“Talking to the contractor they are about two days behind schedule due to rain but he expects to make that time up by the end of next week,” Johnson said. “At Laurel Hill, they started marking on Monday for the digging for the footers, which began on Tuesday. The plumbing company has already started digging, that project is a week ahead of schedule. By next week he hopes to have all the footers poured, which would put us well ahead of schedule.”

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

By Amber Hatten