Chocowinity Primary making space for fifth graders to return

Published 4:27 pm Monday, November 21, 2022

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The Board of Beaufort County Commissioners took a unanimous vote on Monday, Nov. 7 to allow Beaufort County Schools to submit an application to replace a modular building on Chocowinity Primary School’s campus. This modular building would allow rising fifth graders to remain at Chocowinity Primary School instead of going to Chocowinity Middle School which currently serves fifth through eighth grade students. 

According to Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Cheeseman, the North Carolina General Assembly earmarked $300,000 last fiscal year and $500,000 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year for the school district. The money has to be distributed by Beaufort County Government to the local Board of Education. The total $800,000 would pay for a new modular at the back of the school, replacing a current one. Cheeseman said he does not expect a project to replace the modular to exceed $800,000. 

The existing modular has “depreciated over time,” Cheeseman said, adding the school district removed a modular at Chocowinity Primary because “of how dilapidated” it was.  The existing modular is “not conducive to student learning.”

The replacement modular would help 99 current fourth grade students stay at Chocowinity Primary School and become fifth grade students there. The modular would have four or six rooms with a bathroom. 

“The opportunity to do this would also allow us to utilize four classrooms in the brick and mortar building that are currently used for labs and other opportunities to push out into those modulars so our grade five students would actually be able to stay in the brick and mortar building,” Cheeseman said. 

Where the new modular would be located, there are existing water, septic and electric lines. Also, the Town of Chocowinity granted the school a permit to construct in April 2022 that they are retaining. There would be surface level construction to a concrete slab once the old modular is demolished. 

Cheeseman said the hope is that the new modular will be installed Aug. 11 or about two weeks before school starts. 

He explained the benefit of having fifth graders back at Chocowinity Primary which is improving school performance. The school is one of at least two schools in the state that are Pre K-4 and have a B rating from the NC Department of Public Instruction. Chocowinity Middle School is one of 33 schools in the state that serve fifth through eighth grade students. Cheeseman said “very few” models where fifth graders learn with sixth through eighth graders  actually worked through the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the 33 schools, he speculated, had either D or C ratings. 

Talking about fifth graders, Cheeseman said, they have an “elementary” mindset. “Therefore, you should put them back with elementary teachers, elementary students, elementary play.” 

When fifth graders are put in the middle school environment, a school district is “landlocked” in terms of who can teach them based off of their credentials, students’ class schedule based on academic interventions. 

Nearly 20 years ago, Chocowinity Primary School’s grade five learning area burned down. This caused fifth grade students to begin learning at Chocowinity Middle School. Since then, Beaufort County Schools worked to bring fifth graders back to Chocowinity Primary School, Cheeseman explained.