The land along South Carlisle Street in Southern Pines, where a segregated high school then later a primary school once operated, will be sold and developed into an African-American cultural center. The vote by the Moore County Board of Education Tuesday ends a long struggle over the 17-acre tract.
A purchase agreement was approved by the board to sell the surplus property to the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust for $685,000, subject to certain deed restrictions to be finalized before final approval. The vote was 5-2, with Robert Levy and David Hensely voting in opposition.
What to do with the surplus property has been under consideration since 2019 when a new elementary school was built nearby. The issue divided the school board and galvanized the community of West Southern Pines, many of who spoke during the public meeting Tuesday night.
“We are asking for something to move our community forward,” said Oliver Hinds, a longtime resident of Southern Pines. “Think of who is coming behind us. Think about our community. Help move our community forward.”
Sale of Former Aberdeen Elementary School
In another vote of the Moore County Board of Education, the land and buildings along U.S. Highway 1 that once was the Aberdeen Elementary School were sold to the Town of Aberdeen. The agreement for $900,000 was approved by a 6-1 majority, with David Hensley casting the sole vote against the measure.
The agreement contains a provision that allows the school board and the town to share in any profits, should portions of the land be sold.
With the sale of the former Aberdeen Elementary and Southern Pines Primary, it marks an end to a long process of school construction that began with the passage of a $123 million school bond approved by voters in 2018. Since then, the district has built three new elementary schools and disposed of the four surplus properties they replaced.
With the action taken, the school board seems to be happy to “be out of the real estate business,” as Chair Libby Carter has said.
Indoor Face Mask Requirement to Continue
In what has become a contentious issue, the school board voted again to continue mask-wearing by students, teachers and staff while indoors at school and on buses. School boards are required to evaluate their mask policy each month.
Director for Student Support Services Dr. Seth Powers presented information that showed the percentage of COVID-19 infections was higher for mask-optional school districts compared to Moore County Schools. In both Lincoln and Yancey counties, districts that permitted students to attend class without masks, the percent of infections was higher compared to Moore County, according to Dr. Powers.
Data presented showed that Lincoln County Schools had a percent infection of 5.6 vs. 4.3% for Moore County during the period of August through Oct. 1. For Yancey County, during a similar period, the number was 10.2%.
As was the case last month, the vote was 4-3. Voting in favor of continuing the mask policy were Carter, Thompson, Dennison and Caldwell leaving Levy, Hensley and Holmes opposed.
Photo: Members of the West Southern Pines community outside the Moore County Schools Central Office on Tuesday, Oct. 12. They would later sign up and speak during the public comment period in favor of selling the former Southern Pines Primary School to the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.