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Residents rally against consolidation of schools

By Staff
Raising funds to sue county school board
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Bryant Hines credits the Bear Grass community, more specifically the town’s high school, with redirecting a 17-year-old boy’s life.
At a rally held by the Concerned Citizens of Bear Grass and Jamesville on Thursday night, Hines told the story of a boy who was foundering and struggling to fit in at a large Craven County high school, eventually getting suspended and in trouble with the law. That all changed when the boy and his father moved to Bear Grass, Hines said.
Hines, pastor of Mother of Sharon Baptist Church in Bear Grass, said that community and Jamesville stand to lose the “camaraderie” those towns have if their high schools are closed. Hines has held his post since June.
At its Dec. 3 meeting, the Martin County Board of Education voted to examine the option of having only two high schools in the county. The county has four high schools, Bear Grass High School, Jamesville High School, Roanoke High School and Williamston High School. The proposed consolidation would move students attending Bear Grass High School to Roanoke High School in Robersonville and students attending Jamesville High School to Williamston High School.
Martin County Schools Superintendent Tom Daly said Wednesday that the proposed consolidation was an option the school board chose to explore to counter aging facilities and a declining enrollment trend in the school system.
The rally, held at the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center in Williamston on Thursday night, was organized to oppose consolidation. The group held the rally to raise money to hire a lawyer to sue the school board in the event the board votes in favor of consolidation.
Lee Evans, a member of the concerned-citizens group, said Bear Grass and Jamesville are small towns “focused around three things: churches, schools and neighbors.”
Sheri Copeland said the two towns are “already consolidated” in their opposition to consolidating the schools.
The school board cannot vote to consolidate the schools until after it conducts a public hearing. A date for that hearing is expected to be set at the board’s January meeting. After that happens, Copeland said, the high schools in Bear Grass and Jamesville could be closed by the time the next school year begins. She and Evans asked those at the rally to “dig deep” when it comes to donating to a legal fund set up to prevent consolidation.