Members of the Lincoln County Board of Education and Lincoln County Board of Commissioners discussed academic achievement, school construction, safety improvements and the Adequate Public Facilities Program during their joint meeting Tuesday night.
Superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Elaine Boysworth began the meeting by updating board members on the academic achievements made during the past school year. According to Boysworth, Lincoln County Schools currently has a graduation rate of 86.4 percent, while the state has an overall graduation rate of 82.5 percent. Of those high school graduates, 37 percent decide to pursue a four-year degree, and approximately 48 percent continue their education at a community college, technical institute, trade school or nursing school, leaving 3 percent of students pursuing a military track and 8 percent immediately joining the workforce.
Boysworth continued by explaining that of the 20,431 jobs in Lincoln County, 4,438 are manufacturing jobs. With mechatronics becoming an important industry for the area, the Board of Education hopes to implement a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Manufacturing sequence which would allow students to participate in a series of courses during their elementary, middle and high school years.
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Matt Stover gave a presentation on the school’s construction and renovation projects as well as new safety measures now being implemented throughout the county’s schools. Projects ranged from the completed renovation of two high school athletic tracks to the decision to purchase and replace four chillers at Union Elementary School, Battleground Elementary School, Iron Station Elementary School and Catawba Springs Elementary School. According to Stover, one of the most drastic changes was the implementation of a card swipe system to gain entry into school buildings. Vestibules have also been added to several elementary schools to prevent direct entry into the building without office staff permission. Cameras were also installed in the main hallways.
Lincoln County Planning and Inspections representative Andrew Bryant shared a study he conducted outlining each school’s current enrollment along with their maximum allotted capacity and expected enrollment over the next several years. While he explained that no school is in serious danger of exceeding capacity at this time, there is some concern if the SHEA Homes residential community is approved and developed. Located by Little Egypt Road and N.C. 73, the majority of the residential homes are restricted to adults over the age of 55. However, the company plans to lift the age restriction for up to 300 single-family homes.
“The development could add pressure on the school system,” Bryant said. “If approved, looking at one year later, Catawba Springs Elementary would be at 103 percent capacity. East Lincoln Middle School would be at 76 percent capacity, and East Lincoln High School would be at 85 percent capacity.”
Members of the Board of Commissioners also had the opportunity last night to seek further clarification regarding the Board of Education’s decision to begin random drug testing for high school student athletes in the 2014-2015 school year.
Board of Commissioners member Carl Robinson, Jr. expressed concern regarding the lack of counseling offered to athletes who test positive for drugs.
“It ain’t as simple as just ‘getting over it,’” Robinson said. “You have to help them.”
Board of Education member Ed Hatley responded by stating that it typically is “not the habitual [drug] use that you see in adults.”
“There are free government agencies within our community where students can seek counseling,” Stover added. He said that the school guidance counselors would also be available for counseling.
Hatley also explained why the student athletic program was initially picked to undergo random drug testing.
“We picked sports teams initially because there are consequences that can lead to serious physical injuries if students are on drugs,” he said. “The goal is to expand it to other extracurricular programs in the future. You can randomly drug test kids that make the choice to participate in extracurricular activities because it’s their decision to join, but you can’t drug test the whole school’s student body because school (attendance) is mandatory.”