Onslow Board of Ed. addresses school capacity issues

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–Onslow County Schools is facing an increase in the number of students that’s making it difficult to find space for them all.

There are 312 more students this year than last year. Of those new students, 287 of them are elementary students. The school system increases by about 300-400 students each year. But the continual rate of increase is creating a capacity problem.

School board members held a special meeting on Thursday to address the issue. Member Earl Taylor described Onslow County as a “boom town,” tmaking it hard for the system to catch up with enough space for all of the students.

“We need more schools and we need more funding to build those schools,” School Board Chairman Pam Thomas said.

Eight elementary schools across the county need more space. Dixon Elementary and Middle schools are growing the fastest.

The overcapacity issue is system-wide. The school system is currently using mobile classrooms to make up for the lack of space. No high schools are over capacity thanks to recent redistricting.

“We are probably 7 to 8 schools behind in building but we hope together with our partnership with our county commissioners, we can work together and at least keep on track,” Thomas said.

Five new schools are on tap for construction through 2025 as part of the 2014 Joint Educational Funding Policy, a partnership with the county. The total cost of the projects will be around $145 million. Thomas also said in addition to adding more core space, the system must also consider the additional costs of seating more students.

Various board members agreed they’ve been facing the issue of capacity for decades. The board is meeting with the county commissioners in November to address the issue. During Thursday’s meeting, members said they hope to accelerate capital needs on the project with the county. If they don’t, member Bob Williams said it would be like “putting a band-aid on a serious injury.”

Also discussed during the meeting, the name of the new Richlands elementary school set to open in August 2018. The board agreed to create a survey monkey and survey robocalls to allow for community input on the name. Member Brock Ridge said no matter what, the new school should have Richlands in its name.The board will vote on the name after it receives the results.

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