New Hanover County commissioners, board of training meet subsequent week to debate faculty security
The last time the New Hanover County Board and Education Committee met at the same table was on September 3, days after a shooting in New Hanover High. (Port City Daily Photo / Williams)
NEW HANNOVER COUNTY – New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners and Board of Education held a joint meeting after the Thanksgiving break to continue the discussion on school safety initiatives that began back in early September after the New Hanover High shootings.
At 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30, the two bodies will meet in the assembly room of the historic New Hanover County’s Courthouse at 24 N. Third St.
A county spokesman said an agenda was ongoing but would include an update on “Investments and Priorities in School Safety and Community Violence”.
The last time the commissioners and school board members met in person was on September 3rd. During the meeting, with no clear schedule or budget, commissioners unanimously voted to identify the issues that contributed to the shooting event and began looking at funding solutions.
Since then, the county staff have been working on an elaborate, multi-million dollar plan to combat community violence and improve school safety without open discussion with school officials. The district manager has spoken privately to teachers, school staff and representatives from headquarters, among others, to develop spending strategies. A rough $ 89 million framework shared with commissioners in October included $ 43 million for hardscape improvements on campus.
Before the September meeting, the two bodies met for the last time in March. It was the first time in years that both bodies came together at the same table.
Superintendent Charles Foust, who joined the district in September 2020, presented his goals for the school system. The assistant manager presented the facility’s needs with a proposal for a new elementary school in Riverlights, a replacement building for the Pine Valley Elementary, and renovation work on the Mary C. Williams Elementary.
The March meeting was convened around the same time as the school reopening debates, with commissioners openly advocating “Plan A” which allowed students to return to school in person five days a week.
This latest announcement of a special session came just days after the school council voted to extend its mask mandate, with an oral agreement between members to lift it in January. The district spokesman said, however, that a discussion of masks is not currently on the agenda.
Commissioners’ chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman, who also serves on the health committee, led the charge of immediately relinquishing the statewide mandate during the November 12th meeting of the health and personnel committee. Days later, the chair of the school committee, Stefanie Adams, came out as a proponent of an extension of the mandate in schools. Her comments, which she kept until the end of the school council meeting, rounded off a long debate and led to a motion to keep the current policy.
Before the school committee vote, the commissioners appeared to have believed they had obtained a majority among the school committee members to remove the mandate. In an email, Chairwoman Olson-Boseman told a constituent that she was “working on it” and believed they had “4 to raise”.
The next vote on the mask mandate of the school system will take place on December 7th during the regular board meeting. A majority of the school board seemed to be in favor of keeping the mandate until after the winter break; however, state law requires them to reconsider their masking policy at least once a month.
The public will be able to attend next week’s joint session in person or watch it live from their home on the live stream available on NHCTV on Spectrum Cable Channel 13, NHCTV.com and YouTube.
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