The debate over the future of one Lincoln County school is set to continue early next month.
Members of the Board of Education will be meeting Nov. 5 to discuss what actions need to be taken to improve Asbury Alternative School. The Times-News previously reported on a special-called session held earlier this October in which Lincoln County administrators and staff were asked to share their input. Discussion had been brought up in previous community meetings as to whether the alternative school should be renovated or relocated to a different school campus.
According to Candy Burgin, chairwoman of the Board of Education, speculation made by the public prior to the session caused the meeting to get out of hand.
“In the beginning, before the meeting took place, there was speculation because some board members had said ‘let’s look at maybe putting the new location at Lincolnton High School and moving into a new biding on their facility ground,’” said Burgin. “Word had gotten out that we had already made a decision.”
Burgin explains, however, that the incorrect speculation truly hindered the productiveness of the meeting.
“We didn’t get to have a work session where people could ask questions and we could determine what would be best for the students,” said Burgin. “Everyone has a different opinion. We haven’t decided to do anything yet; that’s what our work session will be about on Nov. 5.”
Asbury principal Ted Shiver stated in a previous interview with the Times-News that the facilities are in desperate need of updating. In 2008, Asbury received a $2.3 million dollar bond to assist in additions and upkeep of the school.
“The building is very old, and the bathroom locations are in the classrooms,” said Burgin. “There’s a lot of issues there…the conditions are just poor.”
Burgin says she cannot comment on what discussion took place about the school prior to her arrival on the board in 2010, but since she joined the board, many discussions, plans and architectural drawings have been drawn up.
“It just took such a lengthy process to get all of that done…and when the vote came up to move forward on it, we were transitioning to a new board,” said Burgin. “And then when the new board looked at it, they said, ‘Let’s look at this and restructure it,’ because the current drawings did not meet every need for that school that needs to be there.”
Members of the board have made efforts this month to visit the school and talk to staff and students about their needs.
Burgin has stated that she believes the school should remain a separate entity from other schools. Her decision stems from research and conversations she has held with psychologists, counselors, Asbury’s staff, parents and most importantly, the students themselves. Most of the people she has talked to feel the separation is necessary.
“It’s not that I was automatically in favor of putting (Asbury) at Lincolnton High School,” said Burgin. “I was more for being open and listening to ideas. But in my opinion, it needs to be separate from any other school location because they need that individuality and isolation to get back where they need to be.”
She also believes that putting Asbury students next to another school on the same grounds would only further isolate them.
“They would see themselves as more of a ‘marked’ person,” said Burgin. “They would see the freedoms the other students have. It’s more in their face.”
She stresses the importance of getting this process started.
“It’s been way too long,” said Burgin. “They need an adequate learning facility. Just walking in, it’s sad. And it’s not a productive learning environment. If they had a facility that at least makes them feel better about where they’re at, they’re going to perform better. And it’s our responsibility to provide that for them, for every student in Lincoln County. They deserve the same education that every other student gets and the same opportunities.”
Board of Education members will have the opportunity to work and discuss how to best tackle the Asbury dilemma Nov. 5. While Burgin states the public is welcome to attend, no public comments will be permitted. A public forum will be scheduled for comments in the future if deemed necessary. Burgin holds high hopes for the session.
“I’m hoping that after this meeting, we will have a little more direction as to how to go forward,” said Burgin. “My goal would be to have a decision made (Nov. 5) and voted on the following week at our board meeting.”