LUMBERTON — As a parent, Dwayne Smith wants his son to attend Tanglewood Elementary School as a fourth-grader.
As a member of the Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education, Smith says he will fight to make sure that happens.
Smith last week spoke out strongly about a plan he says is being floated by some board members that would result in fourth-grade students at Tanglewood and Rowland-Norment elementary schools attending classes at Gilbert Carroll Middle School.
Both Tanglewood and Rowland-Norment are currently overcrowded. Gilbert Carroll, which now houses 593 fifth- and sixth-grade students, reportedly has enough space to accommodate the fourth-graders from the two elementary schools.
This year, there are 125 fourth-grade students at Tanglewood. As of late Friday, the number of fourth-graders this year at Rowland-Norment was not available.
But Smith doesn’t see this as a space issue. Instead, he said, the issue is one of “catering” to parents who wish to transfer their children from other Robeson County elementary schools to one of the Lumberton elementary schools.
“In my opinion, you can’t justify moving kids out of a school in their district to make room for transfer students,” Smith said. “It’s just not fair. All you are doing is hurting the kids and the school.”
According to public schools spokeswoman Tasha Oxendine, the issue of moving fourth-graders from the elementary schools to the middle school has not been discussed by the administration and school board at any meeting. She said the administration has no official position on the subject.
Oxendine also said the issue is not on the agenda for the board’s next meeting Tuesday.
Board Chairman Mike Smith said the issue will be discussed during the board’s annual retreat Friday and Saturday.
“We will get a better understanding of this at the retreat,” Smith said. “We’ll hear what the administration thinks. This is not something we will just jump into.”
Smith said he personally doesn’t think moving the fourth-graders to the middle school would be a big problem.
“These students would be moving to the middle school the next year anyway,” he said. “This would just mean that they would move a year earlier.”
The school system’s transfer policy is liberal, allowing parents to move their children to schools near where the parents work so getting them to and from school and day care is more convenient.
Mike Smith agreed with his fellow board member Dwayne Smith that a lot of parents prefer their children attend Tanglewood because it is known for providing quality education. He added that Tanglewood is convenient to many parents because they hold jobs in Lumberton.
The chairman also said he does not believe the move from the elementary school to the middle school would be difficult for the students.
“I think if it comes to the change, the students will make the transition fairly easily,” he said. “Kids adjust easily. They just want to go to school and get an education.”
Mike Smith said he has received several calls from parents and others concerned about the possibility of fourth-graders moving to the middle school. Some of the calls, he said, were from friends.
“Some are apprehensive about the possibility of the change, and that’s a natural thing,” he said. “If I was a parent I might have a different opinion, but I don’t think so.”
While Tanglewood is currently overcrowded, it is expected that the school’s population will decrease for the next school year with the opening of Southeastern Academy as a charter school. Southeastern, which has been a private school, is expected to take in about 100 new students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade.