With little warning or fanfare, the Bladen County Board of Education for all intents and purposes on Monday pulled the plug on a proposal to close three of its 13 schools.
It was the right decision at the right time.
For several months — with Bladen County Schools facing severe budget cuts, a drying up of its General Fund and the removal of a safety net from the Bladen County Board of Commissioners — a committee put together a number of options in an effort to save the district money. That plan centered around the possibility of closing three schools: Clarkton School of Discovery, Booker T. Washington and Plain View.
That proposal never resonated with the community, however, and the board spent portions of several meetings hearing from its angry constituents. A media blitz that included letters to the editor and guest columns, all aimed at stopping the potential school closures, was also begun.
We can feel the pain from both sides. If there were ever an issue to ride the fence on, it is this one.
We can see that the school district needs to tighten its belt and look for viable options to save money. Closing schools, to some degree, makes sense — especially given that almost every school has severe needs for repair and modifications. But the trouble starts when trying to determine which schools should be shuttered — and right off the bat we could see the board was fighting a losing battle by suggesting Clarkton School of Discover, a school with a solid history of innovation and success, be targeted for closure.
We can also see where closing any schools would be an arrow to the heart of any community that school has long served. Not since consolidation took place 15 years ago, creating East Bladen and West Bladen high schools, has the community risen up so strongly over an issue being considered by the school board. But these opponents to school closings also need to understand that a school district is like any other business, and tough decisions must be made. Although we applaud the community for speaking out, having a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude won’t help the situation.
The Board of Education and Supt. Robert Taylor will seek the assistance and input from the state’s Department of Public Instruction School Planning Division, and we applaud Taylor and the board for moving in that direction. And while that process is playing out, the board will not take any action until that process is completed.
That means the schools in Bladen County will not be threatened with closure at least through the 2016-17 school year.
In the meantime, we can only hope that a viable option or combination of options can be found that will make everyone happy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”