The Stokes County School Board unanimously agreed to offer the former Francisco Elementary School property to the county at its regular meeting Monday.
The decision was just one of several dealing with the closure of the school last month.
Board members also agreed to use four buses, instead of the initially proposed three, to transport students, including former Francisco students, to Nancy Reynolds Elementary in the fall.
That decision came after Transportation Director Brad Lankford gave board members a breakdown of average time students would spend on the buses with both configurations.
“The deadline for transfer is still open,” he said noting that the bus times were still an approximation and could change depending on final enrollment. “If you used four buses the students would have a shorter bus route. Using three it would be longer but in line with what we are doing at other schools like Lawsonville and Sandy Ridge.”
Board member Bill Hart expressed concern about retaining students in the northern part of the county, suggesting that the system should strive for the shortest amount of time possible for bus routes.
“We have to do something better,” he said. “I can’t imagine a first grader being on a bus for two hours and then going into a classroom and being productive.”
Assistant Superintendent Tony George noted that the school system had worked hard in recent years to decrease bus times from as high as two hours and 40 minutes to the two hour trip some students now endure.
Board Chair Sonya Cox said if shortening the bus routes could keep just two students in the county it would be more cost effective for the system and using only three buses.
“If you lose two students to Surry County that would take as much money out of the budget as it would take to run the extra bus,” she explained. “I would like to see us use four buses this year and try to redistribute the kids to cut the route times as much as possible.”
The board also approved giving back to the community a number of items that had been donated to the former Francisco Elementary School including a piano, flags, trophies and trophy cases.
“We have gotten a lot of stuff boxed up and moved over to Nancy Reynolds,” Maintenance Director Ricky Goins said. “Our plan is to move all of the furniture to the gym to see if any other schools could use it. Once they have gotten any items they could use we will bring any other items back to the board to consider.”
Hart asked the board to consider the fact that the community hopes to be able to eventually use the building for a variety of community events.
“Anything we could keep there that would help us in doing things like senior citizens meals that would be a great benefit to us,” he said.
The board also approved the use of the property for a community event on Aug. 21.
“The community wished to have a day for the children before they went to Nancy Reynolds to have a celebration and give them some things to help them before they move on,” said Hart.
Director of Finance Lanette Moore warned the board that the mulch at the playground at the school was not adequate according the school system insurance company.
“To bring it up to code would cost about $20,000 to $30,000,” she said. “I just wanted to make you aware in case something happened.”
School Board Attorney Fred Johnson said the system had received no notification that the insurance had been cancelled.
“I don’t see any difference between this event and any event that we had there in the past school year,” he said. “I can’t really justify saying no to it.”
“On the attorney’s advice I don’t see any problem with having the event there,” said Board Member Pat Messick. “I just feel like it would be a good thing.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.