School board talks safety, bond referendum

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lumina News file photo 

Wrightsville Beach School students walk to their classes in some of the school’s mobile trailers on Sept. 12, 2012. Renovations to the school are among the projects on a bond referendum being discussed by the New Hanover County Board of Education

The New Hanover County Board of Education continued discussions about school safety and a school construction and renovation bond referendum on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and will talk again about the subjects more in depth at a board retreat later this month.

Superintendent Tim Markley said the last full security audit was conducted in 2005. Ten additional buildings are now located in the county. Therefore, the school board approved up to $200,000 from the board’s general fund balance.

In 2005, the audit, totaling $142,000 was funded by a Homeland Security grant, but Markley said they are unlikely to find a similar grant with such a short timeframe this time around.

“We need to see our vulnerabil-ities,” said board member Derrick Hickey.

Prompted by a question from member Lisa Estep, Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and operations, said some training was included in the previous grant money but he would like to see the scope expanded this time. The idea, he said, is to focus on all hazard assessments instead of looking at one or two issues.

“There will be many different facets to this assessment,” Hance said.

In a separate agenda item, the board approved a 57-page Emergency Operations Plan, an effort by the county, school system, law enforcement, and fire and health departments.

“This is in line with FEMA and Homeland Security requirements,” Hance said.

The plan is a living document that can be changed and will be reviewed annually.

“We will look at it as a system-wide initiative,” Hance said.

County manager Chris Coudriet attended the meeting to share the commissioners’ decision to split the cost of funding deputies in all elementary schools for the remainder of the school year, with a price tag of up to $317,000 for New Hanover County Schools.

Also during the board retreat, school board members will discuss the school construction and renovation bond referendum they are recommending for approval to the NHC Board of Commissioners. The total projected cost is $284 million for a list of 25 projects, including about $7,000 for Wrightsville Beach School additions and renovations. The final referendum amount will be determined by the school board and county commission.

If approved, the referendum would be on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

Hickey said he would like to spend time as a board prioritizing what is important, what needs to be done to keep the school system functioning and also a wish list.

“To be fiscally responsible, we don’t want to build more capacity than we need,” he said, referring to topics like school vouchers and charter schools.

The board did not set an official date for the retreat.


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