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Consolidation foes vocal

By Staff
Many people want four high schools in Martin County
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
WILLIAMSTON — During her freshman year at Bear Grass High School, Juliann Stalls was diagnosed with leukemia.
At that time, she played on the school’s tennis team, was a member of its marching band and was a straight-A student. The effects of chemotherapy threatened to take that all away, she told the Martin County Board of Education on Monday night. But, with the help of her “Bear Grass High School family,” she was able to stay on track, despite the loss of her long, blond hair.
Stalls was one of several speakers who showed up at the Martin County Auditorium to talk about the possible consolidation. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. and last two hours. With at least 80 people preregistered to speak, it lasted until after 10:30 p.m., when the school board ended the hearing.
Martin County Schools Superintendent Tom Daly has said the plan to consolidate is one option to address aging and unsafe school buildings at Bear Grass and Jamesville and using less space to house the county’s declining student population.
But the issue of safety is exactly why Seth Hines wants Bear Grass High School to remain open. He transferred there from a much larger school in Craven County.
Despite repeated impassioned arguments by some people who want to keep four high schools in the county, a contingent of students and residents from Williamston or Robersonville voiced support for consolidation.
Lane Harris, president of the student body at Williamston High School, said she and her fellow students had “accepted that consolidation is the best thing.”
In December, the school board voted to examine the option of having two high schools in the county. The county currently 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. It would also send students at Jamesville High School to Williamston High School. Seventh- and eighth-graders at Bear Grass would move to Roanoke Middle School.
Jerry Wynne, parent of a Bear Grass student, said the move would put “undue hardships” on the students of the schools that would close if the schools are consolidated. Wynne, who works in the Beaufort County school system as its director of transportation, said some students would face 30-minute bus rides twice a day if the Bear Grass and Jamesville schools are closed.
Stalls phrased her plea to the school board in simple terms.