School, county officials talk safety, consolidation

By: By Amber Hatten-Staley - Staff reporter

LAURINBURG — County and school officials discussed a variety of topics during their monthly Liaison Committee meeting on Thursday.

School board members Jamie Sutherland and Chair Summer Woodside brought Commissioners White Gibson, Bob Davis and Guy McCook up to speed on what’s happening with consolidation and school safety issues.

The school board made the decision Monday to implement a mandate that all students must carry clear bookbags beginning next month. Woodside and Sutherland said they’ve been bombarded with questions about that change.

“It’s brought up so many questions — colored-translucent bags, mesh bags, do they have to be completely clear, what about pocketbooks and gym bags?” Woodside said. “It’s for things that won’t set off a metal detector, like alcohol and drugs, that you can hide in a bookbag.”

Sutherland said his own children were less than thrilled with the change, but that it’s a necessary one.

“You’re taking away our individuality, like it’s prison,” he said. “My son gave me grief, saying, ‘Oh, I hear we’re doing clear book bags?’ I asked him how he found out and he saw a screen shot on Snapchat.”

Many people on Facebook have criticized the decision, saying it won’t stop students from bringing guns to school and it’s a pointless venture.

“Unless they’re going to make students wear see-through clothes, this helps nothing,” Jay McDougald wrote.

“Laurinburg needs to stop being cheap and get metal detectors and security guards,” according to Loki Lopt in a comment on the article posted to the Exchange’s Facebook page.

Sutherland and Woodside were quick to point out that clear bookbags are just the first step. Board members are meeting with Scotland High School principal Brian Edkins on July 23, when they meet as a committee, to discuss installing metal detectors and how his staff would handle it.

“I don’t think clear bags is the end of the conversation,” said Sutherland. “We’re going to do things that aren’t too intrusive and do the best we can, because the alternative is unacceptable.”

The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office requested money from the county commissioners to employ five additional school resource officers, so there would be an officer at every school in the county, but the county did not have the money in the budget to grant that request.

Currently, the school district pays for three officers from the Sheriff’s Office — while the county pays for two — and two from the Laurinburg Police Department.

Consolidation update

The school board awarded the construction of the new elementary school to FBI Construction out of Florence, S.C., on Monday. FBI is currently working on the additions at Laurel Hill Elementary Schools, which is on track to be completed before school starts.

The county commissioners approved the financing of the new school through Limited Obligation Bonds on Monday and are looking to be in front of the Local Government Commission on Aug. 7.

David Cheatwood, director of First Tryon, the financial consultants for consolidation, will be making a presentation to the county commissioners during their meeting Aug. 6 with updated numbers on cost savings now that the bids have been awarded.

FBI submitted a bid of $22.42 million, which the school board accepted, along with two alternate bids for terrazzo flooring and digital control systems. The additional expenses along with technology and furniture bring the cost of the new school to $23.59 million. The county wrote it into their financing resolution that the project is not to exceed $25 million.

If the Local Government Commission approves the financing, the bonds will be sold the first week of September and construction can begin.

FBI Construction estimated the project will take 530 days, or 17 months, to complete making the new elementary school ready for students by the 2020-21 school year.

The liaison committee members were in agreement that representatives from the school board and county commissioners should attend the LGC meeting next month in Raleigh.

When the financing for city hall went to the LGC last year, those for and against the project were permitted to speak but generally the public does not address the commission.

Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]

By Amber Hatten-Staley

Staff reporter