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School board votes to close South Robeson High School again

Updated: Jul. 19, 2019 at 11:16 PM EDT
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ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) - The Public Schools of Robeson County school board voted to rescind keeping South Robeson High School open.

It was just one of several drastic changes revealed at Friday night’s special called board meeting.

The focus of the meeting was the reason for the school district’s $2 million deficit that has resulted in the need to make some tough decisions.

Superintendent Shanita Wooten listed damage from two major hurricanes, increase in state salary and benefits requirements, the cost for substitute teachers and a decrease in student population.

Over the past three years the district lost 1,688 students. At $9,000 per student, that’s a $12 million decrease.

“There were some things not taken into consideration that probably should have been before the vote was made on the alternative plan,” Wooten said.

Wooten said when it came to the alternative plan to make the high school a 6th through 12th grade school, it would cost the district around $1 million more than the original plan to house 5th through 8th grade only.

Wooten said they’ve been working on a transition plan for the high schoolers’ safety in surrounding schools, which is a top concern for parents and students.

“We looked at the school resource offers, we looked at who lives in the community, who’s from the area, who knows the children,” Wooten said.

But, for parents like Sherron Belton, whose children attend the other schools that are closing, she believes merging schools will create more problems than solutions.

"Every teacher from Rowland and Maxton should be mad, every parent should be mad and doing something about it,” Belton said. “You got all these kids in a small classroom to one or two teachers, it's not fair to our students, it's not fair to our teachers."

As for staffing, Wooten said the district has 90 more staff members than needed.

The district has limited new hires and instead rearranged positions to help with the transitions.

“We’re going to have increased staff at some of the schools that are receiving new students to ease the transition, we’ve talked about transition coordinators... we’ve been very creative with how we’re going to make this work,” Wooten said.

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