The Johnston County Board of Education is considering closing the South Campus Community School in East Smithfield.
During a recent review to ensure Johnston County Schools alternative programs comply with State Board of Education Program Standards several areas of concern were identified.
The South Campus alternative school costs the district several million dollars each year to operate. Teacher and employee salaries and benefits cost $2,376,585 annually. Transportation costs are $275,968 or about $1,500 per day.
The school only serves an average of 125 students per year at an average cost of $19,000 per student. The average cost per pupil in a traditional school in Johnston County is between $8,000 – $9,000.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Eddie Price said most high school students are referred to South Campus Community School due to violence, drugs and for disruption or failing to comply. Most middle school students are sent to the alternative schools for infractions like fighting and for multiple disruptions.
53 percent of students who come to South Campus have a documented exceptionality or special need, Dr. Price told members of the school board during a March 7th meeting. “The Program Standards for Alternative Schools established by the State Board of Education indicate that the percentage of exceptional students at an alternative school should not be significantly higher than the rest of the district. For the district as a whole, 15 percent of students are identified as students with disabilities.”
“Two thirds of the students at South Campus are male, one-half of the students are African American, one-fourth Hispanic, and one-fourth White,” Price said while showing a slide to board members. “Based on these demographics, the student population at South Campus is disproportionately male, minority and EC (exceptional children) compared to the district.”
South Campus school had only 7 students to graduate during the 2016-17 school year. Over one-half of those attending the school have failed at least one grade in high school.
Dr. Price said a team approach between school sites is lacking. “When South Campus receives a student they know very little about the student when they arrive. All students have to be re-evaluated (and) tested to see what they know and don’t know. Once students leave South Campus there is inconsistent communication with base school teachers, principals and staff as to what the student has learned, how they were learning best, or what was working to get them back in school.”
Price said South Campus lacks mental health resources, charter education and behavior curriculum. “Although the staff at South Campus certainly the right heart (and) intent and a no-quit attitude regarding helping their students, many simply lack formal training and other capacities needed to meet the true needs of students for true rehabilitation to take place.”
If South Campus Community School does close, Price recommends replacing it with a Choice Option plan for at-risk students which is a non-traditional flexible schedule at select schools that is personalized to meet students’ individual needs.
“Instruction would be delivered through a blended platform, online and with access to highly qualified teachers. Bus transportation would be provided Monday through Friday. Students would be able to request to attend the Choice Option or be placed based upon need,” Dr. Price said. “Students needing an alternative placement would be served through our contracted partnership with Johnston County Youth Services.”
Students who have to work during the day or who have to care for children during traditional school hours would be able to attend an evening model instead.
There has been discussion with principals who would be interested in establishing a pilot choice program after school on their campus. One idea being considered would be a model of the very successful Sparta Academy being operated presented by Smithfield-Selma High School.
State law requires a public hearing be held before any school is closed.
Johnston County Schools will hold a public hearing on the possible closure of South Campus Community School on Thursday, April 6th at 6:00pm at the Johnston County Board of Education Office at 2320 Highway 70 East, Smithfield.