LUMBERTON – The first phase of the Red Springs Athletic Complex construction project was approved by the Robeson County Public Schools Committee on Tuesday.

The move forward recommendation was presented by Finance Committee Chairman and Board Member Mike Smith during the regular Board of Directors meeting. The first phase of the project will cost approximately $ 588,000, with an additional 10% of that amount added for emergency purposes. In the first phase, trees from around 4.5 hectares of the site are cleared and the land is prepared for the next phase.

According to Craig Lowry, chairman of the board, money had previously been identified and allocated to the project.

The complex will include a softball and a baseball field. Groundbreaking for the complex took place in April 2019, but the project was postponed due to a $ 2 million deficit in the PSRC budget.

“The goal is to be able to play on it in the spring of 2022,” said Lowry.

After a closed meeting, the board members approved the change of title from Gordon Burnette to chief information officer and promotion to member of the cabinet of the superintendent. He was offered a two-year contract with a salary of just over $ 68,000 a year.

The paving of the parking lot of the Rex Rennert elementary school was also approved on Tuesday. The project must be put out to tender at precise cost.

There are still $ 222,000 in capital expenditures left to cover the project, but more money can be withdrawn from fund balance for the project, said Erica Setzer, PSRC’s chief finance officer.

Setzer also said the board had received a clean review for fiscal 2019-2020 and topped up funds in all areas except Prime Time, an after-school care program.

“So we’re making progress and making progress in increasing all of these balances to get back to really productive levels,” said Setzer.

District Manager Freddie Williamson praised Setzer and her team for their efforts.

“Let me say to Erica and her team, congratulations, in unprecedented times with everyone you have a clean exam and then to add to each fund balance, thank you for your guidance, your work in your department,” he said.

Setzer also said that a program called Confident Kids, which includes a contract with author Jennifer S. Miller, will provide parents with information to aid the emotional and social development of children who have received distance education. Miller’s book, entitled “Confident Parents, Confident Children: Boosting Emotional Intelligence in Us and Our Children – From Toddlers to Teens,” is given to parents with children enrolled in PSRC schools. The program will include six hours of class from March through June paid for using the PSRC’s Title I funds.

School council member Dwayne Smith raised concerns about the Lumberton High School auditorium and its electrical issues.

“It’s not even a mess. That’s an understatement, ”he said.

“It’s just about me, hey, we have a lot of needs, I understand. We have needs and wants, but you had better deal with the needs before we have issues in some of these areas that we need to address, ”added Dwayne Smith.

Repairs to the school’s roof and auditorium are on the list of projects to be undertaken, Lowry said.

“We’re trying to do what is best for all of Robeson County’s public schools,” said Mike Smith.

“You take small steps at the time, but it all adds up in the end,” he added.

The PSRC’s goal this year is to complete roof replacement and repair projects at about 11 schools priced at about $ 986,000, according to Setzer and Lowry.

Setzer told board members that educators who opt for 10-month paychecks over 12 months will have until August to receive those checks. Due to the state’s decision to update the accounting software, the option to do so will be removed after August, but the PSRC will find a solution.

“We just wanted to know that this will change,” said Setzer.

In other lines of business, school board member John Simmons asked Superintendent Williamson if it would be considered for students who are 18 years old and who have had a driver’s license for six months to drive school buses in elementary schools to make up for the shortage of school bus drivers. Williamson said the school district is consulting the State Department of Public Instruction on the matter.

During the meeting, school board attorney Grady Hunt recommended that the board of directors continue the meeting practically in accordance with Executive Order 195, which limits capacity to 30% of fire capacity, or seven people per 1,000 square feet. Inviting the public to attend face-to-face meetings could result in the board of directors excluding members or rejecting some based on capacity requirements.

Dwayne Smith also spoke of teachers and staff who were reluctant to return to school but made other trips. Smith encouraged these people to put PSRC student learning first or consider career change.

“I think we are all here to make sacrifices,” he said.

In similar news, nearly 1,000 educators have signed up for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine wasn’t mandatory for educators upon re-entry into schools, Superintendent Williamson said.

Board members also agreed to change the date of the regular board meeting on April 13th to April 20th at 6:00 pm

A moment of silence was observed prior to the meeting in honor of Sandra Tramel, Charles Thrailkill and Twanna Hair, the recently deceased staff members. Tramel served as a school nurse at Oxendine and Rex-Rennert Elementary Schools, Thrailkill as a teacher of extraordinary children at St. Paul’s High School, and Hair as an elementary school teacher in East Robeson.