Cumberland County Schools has scheduled three public forums later this month to discuss preliminary student reassignment options.
With these sessions – aimed to gather input from the public – the Cumberland County Board of Education continues to move forward with the possibility of closing T.C. Berrien Elementary School.
Berrien was closed because of reported mold concerns and structural issues, and those former students were relocated to W.T. Brown Elementary in Spring Lake in 2019. The board decided it was too costly to do renovations to the school.
“It’s very important before we move forward and take a recommendation to the board that we would receive input from the families and community members that would be impacted by possible reassignment,” schools spokesman Lindsay Whitley said Friday. “Initially, we shared preliminary reassignment target areas with the board. However, before moving forward with actual recommendations, this is an opportunity to hear from the community."
Whitley said a major part of the school system’s strategic plan is to provide an exceptional learning environment for every student. After considering all the factors and reviewing feedback from families in the community in previous input sessions, the board decided it was best to close T.C. Berrien, one of the district’s smaller schools.
“The cost of trying to upgrade that facility would have been a great cost,” Whitley said. “There were different tiers of things that could be done to the school. There were some that would have been very minor. Of course, in terms of safety and security, it would have been safe for students to go back. But it would not have been at the level that we would have wanted it to be. That’s why after looking at all the different options, we made the decision to make the recommendation to the board to close the school.”
District leaders shared the four preliminary student reassignment areas with members of the board during a Jan. 4 Auxiliary Services Committee meeting.
The school reassignments would begin this fall in the 2022-23 school year.
The district has set up the following input sessions:
– Public forum 1: At 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at Douglas Byrd Middle School, 1616 Ireland Drive. This meeting will focus on Ireland Drive and Douglas Byrd Middle School families.
– Public forum 2: At 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at W.T. Brown Elementary School, 2522 Andrews Church Road, Spring Lake. This meeting will focus on Lillian Black, W.T. Brown and Manchester Elementary School families.
– Public forum 3: At 6 p.m. Jan. 27 at Ferguson-Easley Elementary School, 1857 Seabrook Road. This meeting will focus on T.C. Berrien, Lucile Souders, Ferguson-Easley, Glendale Acres, Ashley, Walker-Spivey, Luther “Nick” Jeralds and R. Max Abbott families.
“There are several different plans and options under this scenario,” Whitley said. “This gives us a chance to hear what the questions are that parents and families might have, to maybe think about things maybe we didn’t consider when putting the plans together. We’ll be able to finalize and wrap up any of those things before taking the final recommendation to the board.”
The four proposed plans for the reassignment of T.C. Berrien included:
– Divide T.C. Berrien between Lucile Souders and Ferguson-Easley elementary schools. That would be a minimal movement of 178 students, where only students from T. C. Berrien are affected by the redistricting.
– Divide T.C. Berrien between Ferguson-Easley, Glendale Acres and Ashley elementary schools; connect the student assignment area by transferring students from Walker-Spivey Elementary School. This would involve the movement of 193 students, with the students from T.C. Berrien and Walker-Spivey impacted by the reassignment.
– Divide T.C. Berrien between Ferguson-Easley, Alma Easom and Vanstory Hills elementary schools; connect the student assignment area by transferring students from Walker-Spivey Elementary to Alma Easom and Vanstory and from Alma Easom and Vanstory to Glendale Acres and Ashley. In this case, 252 students – from T.C. Berrien, Alma Easom, Vanstory and Walker-Spivey -- would be affected by the redistricting.
– T.C. Berrien is reassigned to W.T. Brown Elementary School. This plan would reassign all 178 Berrien students to W. T. Brown, where T. C. Berrien students are currently housed.
Middle school plan
The proposed plan for the middle school realignment for T. C. Berrien is:
– The southeastern-most part of Luther “Nick’’ Jeralds Middle School would be reassigned to R. Max Abbott Middle School, containing seven students.
Nick Jeralds has 596 students in sixth through eighth grades, with a building capacity for 716 students. This plan would reduce that number to 589.
R. Max Abbott has 762 students in sixth through eighth grades, with a building capacity for 950 students. This plan would increase that number to 769 students.
Lillian Black proposals
There are three proposed reassignment plans for Lillian Black Elementary School in Spring Lake, which has 175 students in kindergarten through fifth grades. They are:
– All of Lillian Black would be reassigned to W.T. Brown. As a result, Lillian Black would be closed.
– All of Lillian Black and the southern-most portion of Manchester Elementary School would be reassigned to W.T. Brown. Besides the 175 students from Lillian Black, the 78 students from the southern-most portion of Manchester would be reassigned to W.T. Brown.
– All of the Lillian Black Elementary School district, the southern-most portion of Manchester and T.C. Berrien would be redistricted to W.T. Brown.
Overall, this would require the movement of 431 students, the closure of Lillian Black Elementary and better utilization of the facility at W. T. Brown.
Ireland Drive middle proposal
The proposed reassignment plan for Ireland Drive Middle School is:
– Currently, there are 284 students who live in the student assignment area and attend Ireland Drive Middle School in sixth through eighth grades. The Ireland Drive facility would become part of Douglas Byrd Middle.
This would consist of moving 354 students, a combining of the district with the use of both buildings and reducing staffing costs.
Those who attend the community forums are asked to follow COVID-19 protocols, including social distancing and wearing a mask.
The school district has created a website with video presentations about the preliminary student reassignment areas and an option to submit feedback virtually. For more information and to share feedback prior to the forums, go to www.ccs.k12.nc.us/reassignment.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.