Onslow schools address funding for classroom space due to overcapacity

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)–Onslow County Schools is facing a capacity issue.The school system is growing rapidly, and it doesn’t have the funding it needs to create additional space for students while adhering to HB 13.

School leaders met with county commissioners on Wednesday to discuss the Joint Education Funding Policy, which was put in place in 2014. The policy is providing $49.3 million in education spending this school year, which is $1,870 per student.

Onslow County is the 12th fastest growing in our state. Much of that is attributed to the presence of the military. The restrictions on class size placed by HB 13 will require the school system to create an additional 45 classrooms, including the pre-existing mobile facilities. Coupled with the county’s growing need for teachers and the lack of them, it’s a situation that’s causing a headache.

All 20 elementary schools will be impacted. Nine of those schools will require an immediate need for space.

“We lost four early childhood program classrooms this year,” Chairman Pam Thomas, Onslow County Board of Education, said. “Next year if this continues we will lose even more of those classroom facilities because we have to address it on the K-3 issue.”

Also concerning is the impact creating the additional K-3 classrooms will have on art, music and physical education.

“What I’m afraid of is when we limit the classrooms like that we’ll have some of the enhancements go away,” Commissioner Robin Knapp said. “A lot of students participate in and love the enhancements and I’d hate to see that go away.”

The burden to find the additional funds will fall on local government. Both boards agreed at the meeting that they may need to look at altering the capital funding. County commissioners say they don’t want to increase taxes, but they also aren’t taking that option off the table.

“Taxation is a possibility to meet those needs but I think we’re going to try to do everything we can with the BOE and the BOC to work together to find a way where we don’t have to tax the population,” Knapp said.

Both boards agreed to write resolutions to state lawmakers asking for more time before HB 13 takes effect. The school board approved a waiver on Monday that will delay the impacts of the bill until the next school year.

The school system grows an average of 1.3% each year. In the last year, it increased by 332 students, the majority of which were elementary age.


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