New Hanover County Board of Education members left the work session on Tuesday, Feb. 19, with plans to talk with the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen before further discussing a proposal to redistrict Airlie Road area students from Wrightsville Beach School to Bradley Creek Elementary.
About 30 WBS parents attended the work session concerned about the possibility of redistricting students.
Board member Dr. Derrick Hickey brought up the board’s Jan. 23 retreat, when WBS remained No. 14 on the unfinished bond referendum priority list.
“It sounds like the aldermen were a bit put off by how low on our priority scale was Wrightsville Beach Elementary School,” Hickey said.
During the retreat Hickey reiterated that WBS should be moved up on the list because of the two fifth-grade classes currently operating in Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church.
Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and operations, explained the rationale behind and details of the proposal.
Placing mobile units at WBS is more costly, at an estimated $20,000 to $30,000, than in other areas because the flood zone height requirements and soil conditions require setting the units on pilings instead of conventional footings.
The reassignment would affect 64 students in the Airlie Road area who would move to Bradley Creek, where four trailers could be placed for the estimated cost of three at the Wrightsville Beach location. The four mobile classrooms would provide room for more than 100 students, also allowing for future growth.
With the additional money, there is also the possibility of placing a four-classroom modular building at Bradley Creek.
Hance said they did not expect a time limit to be placed on the additional trailers at WBS by the Wrightsville Beach Board of Adjustment. NHCS requested three additional trailers, allowing for some room to grow. The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen approved flood variances for two of the three trailers for three years until Oct.1, 2016.
Hance said three years would not be enough time, explaining how the redistricting timeline would work factoring in the bond referendum, renovations and the building of new schools.
“Up until this date, I thought that the city of Wilmington was the most unreasonable as far as being accepting and helpful for school planning, but I think we’ve got a new winner,” board member Janice Cavenaugh said about the town.
The parents will have an opportunity to speak during the public comment portion of the March 5 meeting. Board member Lisa Estep said parents could also email members with concerns.
Following the meeting, Mark Johnson, a resident of the proposed area and father of two children at WBS, said a long-term solution is needed along with more parental involvement in the process.
“My biggest concern here is that the solution they’re presenting is short term,” Johnson said. “Only taking out 60 students is not going to work but for so long. You’ve got to look at where the growth is.”
He also said the Wrightsville Beach School Foundation is prepared to help offset the costs of keeping the students at WBS.
Lori Kilbourne, a mother of a first-grade student at WBS, said the Airlie Road area always gets looked at first when this topic arises like it did eight years ago.
Kilbourne said she, along with the majority of the other parents in the room, found out about the agenda item on Monday afternoon.
“We love that school,” Kilbourne said.
The board and schools staff said the issue needs to be resolved by the end of March.
“We’re kind of hamstrung unless something changes with Wrightsville Beach,” Estep said.
The board will send out a four-question survey to all New Hanover County Schools parents through Alert Now to gauge thoughts on armed law enforcement security at elementary schools throughout the county for the upcoming year. The estimated cost of between $1-$1.5 million could cut programs for middle and high school students.