Community conversations regarding the potential consolidation of Henderson and Eaton-Johnson Middle Schools and Northern Vance and Southern Vance High Schools began last Thursday, January 25 and continue through the end of February.
The Vance County Board of Education, Superintendent Anthony Jackson and school system staff are seeking community input on the potential of consolidating both middle schools and high schools as a result of declining student enrollment across the district and to increase financial sustainability.
The proposal includes consolidating Henderson Middle and Eaton-Johnson Middle School for the 2018-19 school year and Northern Vance and Southern Vance High School for the 2019-20 school year.
According to Terri Hedrick, public information officer for Vance County Schools, there is no current plan of which particular school buildings would be closed by this consolidation. “All plans, including which school buildings would remain in use, are open for discussion. Nothing is set in stone. No final decisions have been made,” said Hedrick.
At the January 8 board meeting, it was reported that enrollment in Vance County Schools has continued to decline, from 6,848 students for the 2012-13 school year to 5,980 students in the current 2017-18 year.
According to Hedrick, this decline in numbers is due to multiple factors including the increased number of choices when it comes to education. “Students and parents have more choices as to where they attend school in Vance County. This includes private schools, charter schools and home schooling. Students can also go outside of the county to attend charter or private schools as well,” said Hedrick.
In addition to the increased number of educational choices outside of the public school system, research has shown Dr. Jackson and his staff that birth rates in Vance County have been declining in the last few years and that fewer families living in the county have school-age children. “All of these factors play into the discussions we are having on the possible consolidation of two middle and two high schools,” said Hedrick.
Projections indicate that the consolidation of the middle schools could save the district an estimated $1 million annually, with the high school consolidation saving approximately $1.4 million.
The consolidation proposal projects a reduction of 19 positions at the middle school level and 25 positions at the high school level, plus operational and monthly costs for facilities no longer needed.
The board emphasized that if this proposal moves forward, savings created by the consolidation will be given back to the school system to support students, staff and program offerings. Hedrick indicated that these savings could be used for additional funding of advanced placement and honor courses, technical educational courses, athletics, clubs and fine arts programs amongst other areas.
The proposal is not expected to affect any of the district’s 10 elementary schools, the STEM Early High School or the Early College High School located on Vance-Granville Community College’s Main Campus.
The first two community conversations to discuss the proposed consolidations were held Thursday, January 25 at the Administrative Services Center located on Graham Avenue and at Henderson Middle School. According to Hedrick, approximately 120 people attended the first two meetings with the majority of the comments being positive and in support of the consolidation. “We were pleased with the large turnout and heard a lot of positive feedback and answered a lot of questions,” said Hedrick.
Additional public meetings will be held as follows:
Tuesday, Jan 30- Administrative Services Center at 10:00 am
Wednesday, Jan 31- Northern Vance High School at 6:30 pm
Monday, Feb 19- Southern Vance High School at 6:00 pm
Monday, Feb 26- Eaton-Johnson Middle School at 6:00 pm
Each session lasts approximately 90 minutes and includes a 30-minute presentation from Dr. Jackson followed by smaller group discussions. According to Hedrick, the group discussions are driven by the questions of the public in attendance and have included a range of topics such as academics, staffing, transportation and athletics/extracurricular activities.
Feedback from these conversations will be presented, along with a recommendation, at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, March 12.
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