Robeson County School Board tables decision on consolidation plan until action on SB554

Robeson County School Board tables decision on consolidation plan until action on SB554

ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) - Shakeup could be on the way for schools in Robeson County.

For now, any decisions that could change things are on hold because of a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Officials said the county is in desperate need of newer facilities, and a proposed plan discussed during Tuesday night's school board meeting could help.

It would close 30 schools but consolidate them into 13 new K-8 facilities, along with a career and technology high school.

"A lot of safety and security concerns, a lot of heating and air conditioning concerns, and upgrading the buildings would cost about the same amount of money as building new ones," said Robert Ferris with SFL+A Architects, the company that proposed the plan.

"We've got some dilapidated schools pretty much," school board member Dwayne Smith said. "We're in dire straits."

That's the one thing most board members could agree on Tuesday, that change is needed. However, they couldn't decide on what form.

They went back and forth over what, if any, action should be taken on the proposed plan.

"If they could agree in the next weeks to a month, we could start construction in about a year," Ferris said. "We'd be done with all the buildings two years after that."

However, several board members said they felt rushed. They didn't believe they had enough discussion or planning time to make any movement on the matter.

"I think that, right now, we're putting the cart ahead of the horse," Smith said. "You don't know what you're able to do, not until Raleigh gives us some information on what we're going to be doing."

In the end, board members voted to table any decisions on the matter until Senate Bill 554 makes its way through the N.C. General Assembly. It could change how the school construction is funded.

"If it doesn't pass, to move forward with the plan, we would have to do one of a couple of things," Ferris said. "We could change the way the schools are financed, change the structure of the debt or we could scale the projects back."

Officials with the N.C. Department of Treasury were on hand Tuesday night with their critiques of the proposed plan, saying they saw several red flags.

Many of those issues revolved around the plan's price tag, which would cost the county $1.6 billion total.

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