The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday May 28th

County Examines Schools' Budgets

The Orange County Board of Education and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education discussed increasing the number of school nurses in the county, possible alternative school options and the construction of new elementary schools with the commissioners.

Members of all three boards agreed that schools are understaffed with nurses and are taking measures to remedy the problem.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs said North Carolina recommends a 1-to-750 nurse-to-student ratio but does little to help local governments achieve that goal.

"This was an attempt to be pro-active," Jacobs said. "This is a self-imposed mandate to make sure students get good medical care."

Orange County school board member Susan Halkiotis said her board's goal is to add one nurse to county schools each year until each school has one. She also said most Orange County schools presently share nurses with each other.

Officials also addressed the prospect of cooperative ventures between the two school boards in the future.

Orange County school board Chairman Keith Cook said both boards have been working together to explore the possibility of alternative schools.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education Chairman Nick Didow said alternative school programs could be offered for different types of students.

"(The future programs) would be quite different than the alternatives currently available at Chapel Hill High or East Chapel Hill High," he said.

Cook said alternative schools have the potential to draw many students.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board also presented its unfunded needs for years 2001 through 2011, which total more than $42 million. Among these needs are two new elementary schools, renovations of six older school facilities and the expansion of the system's two high schools.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Neil Pedersen said it is particularly important that the board receive funding for both new elementary schools at once so that they could open at the same time in fall 2003.

"It doesn't make much sense to build two schools, one right after the other, and have to go through the agony of redistricting twice," Pedersen said.

The officials also discussed the upcoming November county bond referendum at the work session.

A joint task force is gathering information about what the county's other financial needs will be and will report back to the commissioners at the end of May. The next joint work session will be held Sept. 24.

Stephen Halkiotis said his board's interest in children causes it to give more money to its school systems than any other county in North Carolina.

"We value and treasure what children are all about."

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