Under the adopted plan, the county's two high schools will have a more balanced assigned enrollment, while still drawing students from districts in which boundaries are similar to what they have been since the schools opened five years ago.
The projected West Bladen enrollment under the new plan will be 877 students, and the projected East Bladen enrollment will be 836 students. Presently, West Bladen has about 920 students while East Bladen has about 730.
Student enrollments and transportation efficiency were the primary reasons the board chose to delve into a redistricting study last fall. The board also wanted to see if a better balance of minority students for the system's two high schools was possible.
The board retained Operations Research/Education Laboratory at N. C. State University to make a complete study of the Bladen school enrollments and the present and projected population status of the county, and then make recommendations on a new plan of districts.
The school board made slight revisions to the Lab's recommendations, then presented a proposed plan to the public through its internet site.
That proposed plan would have sent many students in the New Town section of Elizabethtown, plus students in the Happy Valley and Baldwin Branch communities, areas that have traditionally been in the East Bladen district, to West Bladen. It would have also sent students in the Clarkton area, now in the West Bladen district, to East Bladen.
The board held a public hearing on the original proposed plan April 23, and many who spoke at that hearing urged the board to basically leave the high school lines where they are now.
The final plan adopted Monday night basically did just that. Though there are some changes in the high school lines, the basic boundaries are very similar to what that have been since East and West Bladen opened.
School board chairman David Edge indicated to his board Monday night that the new district plan will help keep numbers balanced at all the schools in the system, will help make for a good "flow" of students from primary to middle to high schools across the county, and will maximize transportation efficiency.
"Many students will have shorter bus rides now," he said.
Superintendent Dr. Ken Dinkins told the board that letters will be sent out soon to all parents whose children will be directly affected by the new district lines so that everyone can be sure in plenty of time where their children will be assigned next school year.
The board agreed, in its motion to adopt the new district lines, to allow sophomore, junior and senior high school students who are to be reassigned to remain at their present schools if they choose, but they must provide their own transportation.
Also, reassigned elementary and middle school students who will be in the fourth and eighth grades next year can remain at their present schools, but they must provide their own transportation.
In other business transacted at its regular first Monday night meeting, the board continued discussions on a revised student Discipline Code of Conduct. Some board members have concerns about wording in the proposed code.
A committee, to be headed by board member Vince Rozier, was appointed to study those concerns and make what the board hopes will be acceptable recommendations for a finalized version no later than the next regular meeting.
Dr. Dinkins told his board that the code needs to be in place so that printed versions of it can be ready for distribution at the opening of school next August. The superintendent said the administration hopes to be able to educate students and their parents on the code so its directives are clearly understood.
In another matter, Dr. Dinkins told the board that the administration at Tar Heel Middle School, which has been considering uniforms for its students, will try the idea on a voluntary basis next year.
"Instead of it being mandatory, Principal Susan Inman and her staff have decided it would be best to try it a year on a volunteer basis," Dr. Dinkins told the board. "If it goes well, then a mandatory program can be considered next year."
The board unanimously endorsed the voluntary concept.
The board recognized the newly named 2005-2006 Teachers of the Year. Stanland Bryant of East Arcadia is the county Teacher of the Year, and will represent the county in district competition.
Teachers of the Year from the respective schools of the system, in addition to Bryant, are:
Robin Nance, Tar Heel; Elizabeth Hester, Dublin; Anita Willington, East Bladen; Joyce Strickland, Elizabethtown Middle; Deborah Evans, Elizabethtown Primary; Elizabeth Porter, Bladen Lakes; Melinda Coughlin, West Bladen; JoAnn Cox, Bladenboro Primary; Oswald Williams, Bladenboro Middle; George Fishburn, B. T. Washington; Runell Carpenter, Clarkton School of Discovery; and Roberta Graham, Plain View.