Smithfield Herald

Schools approve building projects

Following on the heels of county commissioners, the Johnston County Board of Education last week assigned a dollar amount to its next school-bond request.

At their meeting earlier in the month, county commissioners said they would ask voters to vote in November to borrow $64 million – $57 million for the public schools and $7 million for Johnston Community College. Last week, the school board signed off on that amount.

The $57 million – and an additional $56 million in a later bond issue – would help the schools house an enrollment that’s expected to grow by 7,800 students by the end of the decade.

The $57 million would:

• Build a new North Johnston Middle School – $19.25 million for land and building.

• Convert existing North Johnston Middle into an elementary school – $3.2 million.

• Expand River Dell Elementary School to house 886 students – $3.2 million.

• Build a new middle school in the Cleveland/McGee’s Crossroads area – $19.25 million.

• Buy technology – $2 million.

• Operations – $2 million.

The money also would pay for renovations. The dollar amounts are listed below by attendance area:

• North Johnston – $534,000.

• Smithfield-Selma – $549,000.

• South Johnston – $748,000.

• Clayton – $894,000.

• West Johnston – $1 million.

• Princeton – $4 million.

Also last week, the school system’s chief academic officer, Dr. Rodney Peterson, presented a summary of how some programs are faring with fewer state and federal dollars.

Peterson said the schools had seen an increase in the number of students who qualify for disability services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. State funding for disability services has fallen from $5.8 million to $4.4 million, Peterson said.

If Johnston schools hope to maintain disability services at their current level, they will need county commissioners to pick up the funding slack, he said.

Elsewhere, state funding for the Migrant Education Program will fall by $61,000 in the year ahead, and Title I, a program for disadvantaged students, will receive $739,000 less. Funding has increased slightly for the English Language Learners program, from $343,000 to $351,000.

Peterson said a team of parents, teachers and administrators drafted a curriculum that will debut in the fall for the county’s Academically and Intellectually Gifted program. Under state guidelines, school systems must update their AIG curriculum every three years.

Board member Donna White encouraged Peterson and his staff to make the curriculum for gifted students more challenging and to make the best use of funding for the program. “We’re doing so much for all of our other subgroups, and this is also a subgroup that needs our attention,” White said.

Three years ago, the school board shuttered the county’s Academically and Intellectually Gifted Center and made all gifted education school-based.