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WILSON COUNTY SCHOOLS

Stantonsburg: Save our school

Town government, residents seek to sway school board

Posted on November 29, 2021

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Stantonsburg Mayor Coley Rhodes shows one of the "Save Stantonsburg Elementary" signs being placed throughout the town. Council members and residents want the Wilson County school board to keep the facility open as the board studies consultants' school consolidation proposals.

Olivia Neeley | Times

Stantonsburg Mayor Coley Rhodes shows one of the "Save Stantonsburg Elementary" signs being placed throughout the town. Council members and residents want the Wilson County school board to keep the facility open as the board studies consultants' school consolidation proposals.

Quote

We are going to attend every meeting, every planning session. You can’t speak up unless you know what’s going on. Everybody is highly interested in this, and we want to make sure our input is heard.”
Coley Rhodes, Stantonsburg mayor and retired teacher

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7879

STANTONSBURG — Residents and elected officials have launched a fight to keep their elementary school open.

Signs that read “Save Stantonsburg Elementary” popped up throughout the town soon after the Wilson County Board of Education heard an October proposal from consultants that recommended closing Stantonsburg, Winstead and Vick elementary schools. A second proposal presented last week recommended closing two elementary schools — Stantonsburg and Winstead — instead of three.

“We wanted to get ahead of it,” said Stantonsburg Mayor Coley Rhodes, a retired Wilson County Schools music teacher.

Rhodes said she knows the two secnarios are just options and no decisions have been made yet, but she thought it’s important to start a movement now rather than later.

“The seed has been planted,” she said. “It’s there. It’s a possibility whether it happens or not. It’s something that’s going to be on everybody’s minds and hearts.”

INITIAL STAGES

The school board is looking at school needs and long-term facility planning. The process is in its initial stages and will be lengthy. School board members have asked for more data, too.

RELATED STORY: Consultants: Close 3 underused elementary schools

RELATED STORY: 2nd scenario closes only 2 schools 

The move comes after consultants say the 14 elementary schools within the district are only being used at 65% of their capacity. Enrollment figures across the district have declined.

‘WE USED THE SCHOOL COLORS’

Rhodes said the initial story about the potential closures in The Wilson Times got elected officials’ and town residents’ attention.

She said residents were concerned and immediately started calling into the town office. Rhodes said town officials decided they needed to do something visual.

“We used the school colors, which are blue and yellow, to make signs,” she said.

Stantonsburg initially purchased 25 yard signs to get the word out. The town government absorbed the cost, officials said. More signs have been ordered and will be available for purchase at Town Hall after Dec. 6.

“The school has been here well over 100 years,” said Stantonsburg Town Manger David Beaman. “Being a town that’s farther away from the city limits, we want to keep it, and we certainly don’t want a vacated building.”

Beaman said Stantonsburg Elementary probably has one of Wilson County’s largest elementary school districts, noting that the attendance zone includes the town of Saratoga.

“We’re the only school in the county where they are wanting to bus into Wilson,” he said.

MAKING A CASE

Rhodes and Beaman said the eastern part of Wilson County has seen a lot of growth recently. Housing developments are going up as well as the new industrial park, the Campus at 587. The business park near Stantonsburg includes more than 500 acres. The county has sold more than 40 acres of that property where an unnamed company plans to locate, bringing 200 jobs.

“We are growing,” Beaman said. “Especially with the corporate park coming, the 587 campus is going to bring jobs and people. And the city and county have shown they can do that. I doubt it’s going to fail.”

Beaman, a Stantonsburg resident for more than a decade, said he’s been town manager for about a year now.

“Since 2019, we’ve had the completion of 50 lots that were existing and homes got built on them,” he said. “Currently we have 43 lots that water and sewer is going in right now. They are expecting to build homes on those in the next year. It’s a part of a 200-lot subdivision.”

Rhodes and Beaman said 15 new homes went up this summer on Old Stantonsburg Road.

From those 15 homes, Rhodes said Stantonsburg Elementary gained 12 new students. Rhodes said she fears that a potential Stantonsburg Elementary closure will affect prospective homebuyers.

She said the No. 1 question families ask when determining to move to a new home is, “Where is my child going to go to school?”

“If they see they have a long bus ride in the future, they see the county is thinking about pulling our school, am I going to want to disrupt my child from one school to another?” Rhodes said. “It questions their reason for moving here, and it questions the credibility of the town. It’s a ripple effect.”

Rhodes said the town has seen more interest in families moving to rural areas after the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘MAKE SURE OUR INPUT IS HEARD’

Stantonsburg Town Council members decided to reschedule their December meeting because it fell on the same evening as the month’s regular school board meeting, planned for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13  in the Central Office boardroom at 113 Tarboro St. NE in Wilson.

Rhodes said she and council members will be in attendance, and she has also signed up to speak during the public comment section. Town officials encourage other residents who are concerned to sign up and speak or email school board members. 

“We are going to attend every meeting, every planning session,” said Rhodes, who attended last week’s special school board meeting where the second preliminary proposal was presented.

“You can’t speak up unless you know what’s going on. Everybody is highly interested in this, and we want to make sure our input is heard.”

Rhodes said Stantonsburg Elementary holds a special place in her heart. Not only did she teach there during her tenure with the school system, but her father was also a principal there.

“This town is so dear to my heart,” Rhodes said. “I grew up here. I have a history here.”

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on the public comment policy for the school board’s regular meetings, visit wilsonschoolsnc.net/domain/97.

School board members have stressed the need for community involvement in the decision-making process. While the board is in the initial stages of studying consolidation options and has requested more information from consultants, it will hold community sessions specifically designed and scheduled for the topic.

Those meetings could be scheduled as early as January.

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