Daly says mergerwill save money

Published 5:39 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By Staff
Superintendent not callingfor reduction in staff
Staff Writer
One week after the Martin County Board of Education voted to close two of its high schools, schools Superintendent Tom Daly upheld his stance that with declining enrollment and aging facilities, the consolidation will save the school system much-needed funding in coming years.
When and if the two smaller high schools are closed, Daly said he would recommend there be no reduction in staff from present levels. In that respect, closing Bear Grass and Jamesville high schools would not save the school system money. But, Daly said there will be monetary savings in other aspects of the consolidation.
Disregarding staffing costs, Daly said the real savings associated with consolidation would be seen in operating expenses. Bear Grass and Jamesville high schools each need an estimated $7 million to $8 million in renovations within the next few years, he said. The county also needs a new middle school whether or not the system consolidates its high schools. That project is expected to cost $14 million.
Of the buildings that make up Martin County system, 34 percent are more than half a century old and 49 percent are more than 40 years old, according to Daly. The newest building at Bear Grass High School was built in 1975. The next-newest building at the school is from the 1950s, according to Daly.
The newest school in the Martin County system, Roanoke Middle School, opened in 2000. It was the first schools the county had built since the 1970s, Daly said. The issue of consolidation has steadily reared its head about every five years for more than four decades, he said.
That decision came Feb. 4 when the Martin County Board of Education voted 4-2 to consolidate the county’s high schools, closing Bear Grass and Jamesville high schools effective next school year. 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.
Concerned Citizens of Bear Grass and Jamesville on Thursday had its attorney, Robert Hunter, file an injunction against a recent school-board decision to consolidate the county’s four high schools. The motion was entered in Martin County Superior court on the basis that closing the two towns’ schools denied students their constitutional rights to a basic, sound education.
Daly said Monday an attorney for the Martin County Board of Education is preparing to defend the board against a lawsuit filed last week by residents of Bear Grass and Jamesville.
Daniel Manning, the Williamston attorney who represents the school board, said the suit, “was so new the ink is still wet.”
Raleigh attorney Kenneth Soo, with Fairington Smith law firm will also be representing the school board, according to Manning.