ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor addressed the Elizabethtown Rotary Club on Wednesday and gave the members an update on the school system.
“No matter where I go, people are always interested in our schools,” said Taylor.
He said that the school system will continue to be funded at the same rate in 2015-16 as it was for fiscal year 2014-15. Taylor said that there are programs that will also continue into next academic year.
The Community Education Eligibility program which allows all of Bladen County’s students to receive free lunches will continue, said Taylor. He pointed out that Bladen County is a high poverty district.
Taylor said that many kids when they come to school especially when they get in high school don’t want to receive free or reduced price lunches but with the Community Education Eligibility program, everyone receives a free meal.
Taylor said that school staff are excited about being able to once again offer the fresh fruit and vegetable program at all of the county’s elementary and middle schools thanks to a grant the school system received.
“We try to make sure all that money is used with farmers in our local area,” said Taylor.
He also touched on the drivers education program.
“What the state has said is that they will no longer fund drivers ed,” said Taylor.
He added that the General Assembly is still having an ongoing debate over driver education.
“The NC House is discussing adding back the funding. The NC Senate has said to charge for it. So, we are going to have driver education and will charge the students $65. If the funding is restored, we will reimburse those who pay for it,” said Taylor.
He told the group it could be as late as September before the state adopts a budget.
He also told those gathered that the school district staff are still excited about the NC New Schools program as well as Career and College Promise.
“It is an opportunity to take college courses not only at BCC but also at ECU and UNC-Greensboro,” said Taylor.
He told the group that students enrolled in the programs can take college level courses and receive college credits for courses that are successfully completed.
“This translates to a cost savings for parents,” said Taylor.
He added that many people don’t understand all of the costs associated with college. Taylor said that it can cost as much as $19,000 for one year of college.
“Students in the New Schools program can save as much as $20,000,” said Taylor.
He also reported that Bladen County Schools received $336,000 grant from Golden Leaf Foundation to create a STEM Academy.
Taylor also said that programs like the fire fighter academy at East Bladen and West Bladen High Schools will continue and he added a new EMS program is preparing to launch at Bladen Community College.
Taylor also told the group to be prepared to hear more discussions on school consolidation. Currently there are 13 schools in Bladen County and Taylor said that the school board has resigned itself to the fact that community based schools are simply not feasible to operate. He explained that with consolidation of schools, the school district can lower some of its operating expenses.
Taylor said that in Scotland County they have reduced their number of schools to 10 for this academic year and are discussing reducing the number of schools again to eight.
—Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.