District may merge three high schools into one school

A two-phase consolidation plan is under consideration

ALBEMARLE — Tasked with a request from county commissioners to create a long-term plan for the local school system, the Stanly County Board of Education took a step forward in its internal planning last week.

The Stanly school board voted 6-1 at its April 16 work session meeting to approve a two-phase plan for the school district that would potentially result in some major changes to the current system.

Vice Chair Bill Sorensen was the lone nay vote, with Chair Carla Poplin and Board Members Dustin Lisk, Robin Whittaker, Vicky Watson, Rufus Lefler and Glenda Gibson each voting in favor.

In the first phase of the board’s plan, Albemarle High, North Stanly High and South Stanly High would each be shut down and combined into a new 1,400-student high school — floated under the “Eastern Stanly High” moniker — in the eastern part of the county.

Additionally, a new Oakboro elementary school and a new football stadium, baseball field and softball field at West Stanly High are also included in this plan.

“We do not currently have land to build any school,” Whittaker said. “A lot of school systems and county commissioners will acquire land and hold that land until they need another school building… We are looking at if we have any high schools where there is enough acreage already there where we’d be able to build a school.”

Because West Stanly’s property has enough room for a new school, its current building would then be demolished and turned into a parking lot area for a completely new building in the second phase of the school board’s plan.

The potential changes on the county’s high school landscape would also affect local middle and elementary schools.

“It just seems to make more sense to build one new high school down there, bring the other schools in with the redistricting, and then do a shift,” Lisk said. “So Albemarle Middle goes to the high school, East (Albemarle Elementary) goes over to the middle school, and now we’ve got a campus at East that we could sell. If you bulldoze the building, that’s still a prime piece of real estate.”

While the school board indicated that it doesn’t have any intentions to include Ridgecrest Elementary’s empty building in its two-phase plan — and questioning how much jurisdiction the district has over that property — others have said that the board is not taking advantage of the school that closed its doors in 2012.

Meghan Almond, who will begin her four-year school board term for the county’s At-Large seat in December, is opposed to the two-phase plan supported by the majority of the current board members.

“School consolidation is not the answer. We have an empty building (Ridgecrest) begging for students to fill it!” Almond said in a social media post. “We need to contact the board and let them know that this is not the direction we need to take.”

The Stanly County Board of Education is scheduled to hold its next regular meeting on May 7 at 6:15 p.m. inside the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly County Commons.