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School system asks public to weigh in on facilities plans

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By Brian Slattery

The next step in the creation of an updated Brunswick County School’s Facilities Master Plan will rely on parent involvement.

School officials will host three community focus group meetings next week to get input from parents and community members about how to meet the educational needs of students.

The meetings are set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at North Brunswick High School; Wednesday, Jan. 23, at South Brunswick High School; and Thursday, Jan. 24, at West Brunswick High School.

“We’re hoping it will be a success. If you get a good turnout, a good dialog, you find out what people expect and what they will support,” Steve Miley, executive director of operations for Brunswick County Schools, said.

Miley said the school system operates 19 schools, so they are trying to assess the condition of those schools and how the public wants to spend money on them.

They have a running capital improvement list of projects totaling up to $30 million, but annually spend about $2-3 million.

Lottery revenues offer some additional funding for school projects, but since the county can’t do everything, they want to learn what major projects residents want to put their money behind.

The first stages of the assessment involved finding the right consultant, KBR Building Group, who was approved in July 2012, to handle information gathering, which Smiley said involved conducting more than 300 interviews throughout the fall.

The public forums will be presented more like a charrette—a collaborative session in which consultants and community members draft solutions to a problem.

In the school system’s case, consultants will present ideas and see how the community responds, rather than have a public hearing.

“We want to avoid a field of dreams thing,” Miley said. “We want to be sensitive with everyone’s time. Come at 6:30 p.m. and spend 90 minutes.”

Some of the ideas expected to be presented include:

•Overcrowding: How to address student enrollment numbers and use of modular classrooms.

•Vocational education and training: Does the county need a trade school facility or programs added?

•Early College High School: Should the county offer more than what is currently available?

•Safety: Interviews showed community members felt the county had done a good job making schools safe, but the information came before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Miley added the consultant interviews came up with 32 concerns, so while all of them might not be addressed, the discussion topics won’t necessarily be limited to a handful of issues.

“The consultants take a lot of notes. They do voice recordings to look back at what the groups are most interested in,” he said.

He added the school system wants as many parents and community members to speak up to provide the most input.

“We got a lot of compliments on the individual interviews because we are getting diverse opinions, not just one or two of the loudest voices having their say,” Miley said. “We want everyone involved. You never know who will have the best idea.”

Once next week’s focus groups are completed, consultants will review the data, then the superintendent and school board members will have a chance to offer feedback.

Then the school system will host a results’ presentation Feb. 5.

The school board could also add a special meeting for more discussion.

A final report will be generated in early March, Miley said.

 

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.