Town leaders and concerned citizens in Erwin took their plea for a new school to the Harnett County School Board Monday night.
Citizens, again dressed in the traditional red and white colors of Erwin High School, told school board members the same thing they told county commissioners last month, that they are concerned about the condition of the existing Erwin Elementary School.
“I am here to beg you for a new school,” Erwin Mayor Patsy Carson said. “Our children need a safe place to go to school and they deserve a new school.”
Former Erwin Elementary School Principal Angela Hill presented a petition to board members with the signatures of 698 people asking the board to build a new school. She asked the board to move forward with a plan for a replacement school.
“There needs to be a transparent plan to build a new school in Erwin,” Ms. Hill said. “The people deserve to have their voices heard.”
School board members say the issue is out of their hands. They put a new school as the top construction priority last year. They are awaiting funding from county commissioners for the new school.
“In January of last year this board decided our No. 1 priority was to build a new school in Erwin,” School Board Chairman Bill Morris said. “We do not have taxing authority and we are waiting on funds.”
“We have never faltered on saying that we need a new school in Erwin,” Board Vice Chairman Eddie Jaggers said.
Board member Roger Farina said more than just Erwin will benefit from a new school.
“The new school would be good for economic development in the entire county,” Mr. Farina said. “A good school there is good for Harnett County.”
As he did when the group spoke to county commissioners, Erwin High School graduate Tim Morris spoke to the school board.
“At the end of the day, this is an issue of fairness,” Mr. Morris said. “We want you to commit to leaving Erwin at the top of the priority list for a new school.”
County Commissioners have not decided on approval of funding for the new school. The issue of the condition of the school came up again this summer when ceiling fans fell out of the ceiling at the school and an awning collapsed.
Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming said multiple inspectors have examined the building and determined students now attending there are doing so in a safe environment.
In other action, the board honored the family of the late Dan Honeycutt. Mr. Honeycutt spent his entire career in the local school system and retired as the superintendent. He died this summer when he was involved in a tractor accident.
A proclamation was presented to Mr. Honeycutt’s wife, his two sons and other members of this family. In addition to serving as superintendent, Mr. Honeycutt held several other positions including assistant superintendent, principal and assistant principal at Triton High School and as a teacher at Triton High School.
The board also voted on a make-up plan for students and staff at Benhaven. The school missed two days while final construction was being completed on the building. The board voted to make up one of the days with half a day on Sept. 28 and half a day on Oct. 19.
Dr. Fleming said the remaining time will be made up with the extra 10 minutes added to each school day. The make ups will now put Benhaven back on the same schedule as the rest of the county.