Schools could reopen Oct. 22 after a month and a half
PENDER COUNTY -- A month after Hurricane Florence struck Southeastern North Carolina, Pender County Schools has approved the last contracts needed to reopen schools.
During an emergency meeting Sunday via conference call, the Pender County Board of Education okayed $1,437,000 worth of contracts for mold remediation at five schools: Burgaw Elementary, Burgaw Middle, Malpass Corner Elementary, Pender High and West Pender Middle. District leaders say crews will have boots on the ground Monday.
"We’ll send that notice to proceed as soon as you approve, and they're ready to have equipment on site immediately," said Richard Schwartz, the board’s lawyer. "Some may even be trying to do it tonight."
The contracts call for a five-day repair process, meaning schools would not reopen until Oct. 22 at the earliest. Superintendent Steven Hill said he would have more information about opening day as mold clean-up begins.
A lack of funds delayed Pender County Schools' repair process for days. Under state law, school districts cannot sign contracts without having money to pay them out on hand. Post-Florence repairs quickly ate up the district's fund balance and an additional $4 million provided by the Pender County Board of Commissioners.
But last week, Gov. Roy Cooper directed $25 million from the state's lottery to be disbursed to eight counties with schools still closed after the hurricane. Pender County Schools will get up to $5.9 million of that money, allowing it to move forward with the mold contracts.
Schwartz told the board the district will still have to find other sources of funding for larger repairs to schools and the central office buildings. The lottery money can be used only for work necessary to getting schools back open. The N.C. General Assembly is expected to convene Monday and work on an $800 million storm recovery bill, Schwartz said.
Still unknown is how students will make up a month and a half of missed school days. While legislators have given storm-impacted districts a pass for up to 20 missed days, Pender County students will have missed 29 days if they return Oct. 22.
Board members also approved a $79,500 contract with Industrial Hygiene Consulting Corp. for mold testing, and a contract with Goodman-Gable-Gould/Adjusters International for insurance adjustment services, at 5 percent contingency.
Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at Cammie.Bellamy@StarNewsOnline.com.