School Board mulls fate of high school building
September 21, 2011Rocky Mount High School
NASHVILLE - Nash-Rocky Mount School Superintendent Anthony Jackson is urging school board members to begin action to decide the fate of the old Rocky Mount High School Building as its new facilities near completion.
During a school board work session on Monday, Jackson suggested the formation of a committee to explore the options and report back to the school board.
According to Jackson, the new Rocky Mount high school facilities are over 60 percent complete and should be ready for occupancy by August of 2012. However, the move will mean that the school board must now decide how to best utilize the old building. Jackson does not see the disposal of the building as a viable option.
“We will likely need the facility to help relieve over-crowding in other schools,” Jackson said, noting that this year had seen a significant rise in the number of high school students in the system. “The school system has invested in the current facility over the years and it is believed that the facility should continue to be used to address enrollment and capacity needs.”
Jackson suggested several strategies that could be used to draw students to under-used facilities. Most of the suggestions involved expanding or enhancing program offerings such as expanded high school IB (International Baccalaureate) program, establishing a middle school pre-IB program, establishing a performing arts focused curricula, or developing more career training options.
As far as the disposition of the current Rocky Mount High School building, Jackson suggested that the school board consider several options. He suggested a few considerations including the creation of a sixth middle school, possibly as a magnet school with a themed focus.
Another option, Jackson said, would be to relocate Parker Middle School to the current RMHS facilities next year and then begin to redistrict the middle schools in order to balance enrollment. Under this plan, it may be possible to then re-purpose the current Parker Middle School to serve as an additional elementary school, thus allowing Baskerville Elementary to focus on grades K-2 and Parker to focus on grades 3-5, Jackson added.
A third option, Jackson explained, would be to redistrict the high schools in order to reduce over-crowding and to balance enrollment. However, all options would involve money to update the current facilities for the new purpose as well as consideration of the emotional impact of changing redistricting patterns.
In order to lessen this emotional impact, Jackson urged the board to enlist community support from the beginning, possibly including community representation on the committee to study the options. He also suggested that board members considering spending $40,000 to $50,000 to hire an outside demographer to study shifting population trends in order to have neutral input into the redistricting decisions that may need to follow.
“These are not the only options,” Jackson said. “You may decide on a hybrid of the plans or you may decide to do something truly cutting edge that we have not considered yet. But the decision needs to be made fairly soon. This is only a few months away,” Jackson explained.
School Board Chairman Bob Jenkins suggested that another possible option may be to use the facility as a middle college for drop-out prevention or even to adapt the facility for two purposes. “It is a pretty big facility,” he said. “There should be a lot we can do with it.”
School Board member Robert Bynum said that he already had ideas on the subject. “I have got the plan, but I am not going to reveal it yet,” he said cryptically.
The school board plans to take up the matter more fully during the retreat scheduled in October.