Cumberland County School Board discusses student reassignment plans

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Cumberland County School Board members fear residents believe a decision has been made on student reassignment plans as superintendent clarifies difference between closing a school and closing a building school.

The Board of Education’s Auxiliary Services Committee discussed reassignment plans at its Tuesday meeting. School officials held three meetings to get public input on the plans and continue to gather feedback on the school system website.

The school board is considering numerous plans that would relocate students who are now assigned to TC Berrien and Lillian Black Elementary Schools and several other schools.

School officials had to relocate students from TC Berrien in November 2019 when air quality and foundation issues were discovered in the school building. The students attend WT Brown Elementary School in Spring Lake.

The school board later decided to permanently close the TC Berrien School building, which was on North Street near downtown Fayetteville.

Previous:Cumberland County School Board hears student reassignment plans

The commission is considering four projects related to the relocation of students assigned to TC Berrien. Plans would move those students to Lucille Souders and Ferguson-Easley Elementary Schools; at Ferguson-Easley and Glendale-Ashley elementary schools; at Ferguson-Easley and Easom-VanStory elementary schools; or to WT Brown.

Three proposals related to Lillian Black Elementary School would move students from that school to WT Brown. A plan would also move pupils from the southern part of the Manchester Primary School District to WT Brown. Another would be to reassign students from Lillian Black and Manchester, but also move students from TC Berrien to WT Brown.

A separate plan would combine Ireland Drive Middle School with Douglas Byrd Middle School. The schools are located next to each other.

School board member Susan Williams said that at one of the public meetings she attended regarding reassignment plans, a resident asked why school officials were presenting information about various plans and indicated that he believed the matter was a ‘done deal’.

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“I think for the public good we have to say no decision has been made,” Williams said.

Board member Donna Vann said the board was going to the “nth degree” to get public input. She said it bothers her to know that some think the board has already made a decision.

“That’s just not true,” she said.

Board member Charles McKellar said that in a meeting he attended, TC Berrien’s parents were told the school was closing and students were moving to WT Brown. He said many parents were upset because they thought the school was closed.

Connelly said the meeting was to inform parents that the students had to be moved because of the issues with the building.

“We didn’t have the option of temporarily closing the building that housed the school, TC Berrien,” he said.

Related reports:Cumberland County Schools website gives parents opportunity to comment on school reassignments

The board then decided it was prohibitive to continue using the building for educational purposes, Connelly said. Parents were involved in subsequent discussions about whether TC Berrien students would continue to stay at WT Brown.

“The board has not made any decision on whether to close the school,” he said. “The only decision the board has made…is to close the building, the TC Berrien building, as a teaching space for students.”

The board is using the current process to decide whether to find another building for TC Berrien and keep it open or close the school, Connelly said.

Joe Desormeaux, associate superintendent of ancillary services for the school system, said school officials will continue to be involved in the plans for a few weeks. Staff members will present several options to the committee at an upcoming meeting, he said.

In another action, the committee received an update on plans for a new EE Smith High School, and the council’s legislative committee discussed the process that will be used to determine new districts from which council members will be elected.

Local News Editor Steve DeVane can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3572.

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