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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding the Possible Permanent Closure of Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle

*Much of the information below can be found in the Long-Range Facilities Planning Discussion Timeline that was posted to the website and shared with staff and families prior to the Public Hearing held on May 9, 2022. To view the timeline, click HERE

1. Why are schools potentially closing? 
     The Wilson County Board of Education is currently making decisions about long-range facilities planning, at the suggestion of the Wilson County Board of Commissioners. Long-range facilities planning includes the possible closure, consolidation and/or building of schools. The Commissioners have shared that it is difficult for the county to continue to provide funds to maintain older, underutilized schools when the funds could be spent upgrading newer facilities or building new schools. 

2. Why was Winstead Elementary chosen as a school to possibly close? 
     The Wilson County Board of Education is currently making decisions about long-range facilities planning, at the suggestion of the Wilson County Board of Commissioners. Long-range facilities planning includes the possible closure, consolidation and/or building of schools. The Commissioners have shared that it is difficult for the county to continue to provide funds to maintain older, underutilized schools when the funds could be spent upgrading newer facilities or building new schools.       
    The first step in the long-range facilities planning process was to gather research. During the Feb. 17, 2020, Board of Education meeting, the Board approved a contract with Operations Research and Education (OREd) Services to complete an Integrated Planning for School and Community (IPSAC) and Land Use Study for the district. The study included enrollment forecasting, demographics, historical enrollment and trending research to help provide information for the future to assist in the possible closure/consolidation of schools and/or the possible building of new schools. The Board also looked at the district’s five and ten year facilities plans and estimated costs for maintaining the sites.
    OREd indicated that WCS has seen a decline in enrollment. In the past six years, enrollment has declined by nearly 2,000 students. The district’s elementary schools are operating at an average of 60 percent utilization, which means there are schools serving far fewer students than they were built to serve. Underutilization contributes to staffing and funding challenges. Winstead Elementary is experiencing underutilization. The current student enrollment is 355, and the capacity is 453. The OREd study indicated a slight decline in student enrollment from the current year and forecasted that enrollment would continue to fluctuate over the next eight years.
    Other factors, aside from underutilization, were also a part of the Board’s discussions regarding Winstead. The school’s age was a key factor. Winstead is one of the oldest schools in the district and in need of major and expensive renovations. Winstead was originally constructed in 1953 with additions in 1988. During the May 10, 2021, Special Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Mills shared “what if” scenarios with the Board based on the OREd study. The “what if'' scenarios included a list of schools that could possibly be consolidated. One of the scenarios was combining Winstead with Vinson-Bynum Elementary and then closing Winstead. If the combination occurred, it was suggested that the old two-story wing of Winstead could be demolished. The remaining wing could become Daniels Learning Center and also house the district’s print shop or technology center. The current Daniels Learning Center could be closed.
    During the Oct. 28, 2021, Special Board Meeting, representatives from OREd presented a preliminary draft scenario and recommendation regarding the district’s facility needs and usage. The draft scenario suggested the closure of three elementary schools in the future - Stantonsburg, Vick and Winstead. That scenario also suggested combining Winstead with Vinson-Bynum. Scenario A would bring the district’s utilization of elementary schools to 80 percent. OREd weighed several priorities that were decided upon by the Board when making the recommendation. The priorities were: balancing utilization and demographics; maximizing student proximity to schools, maintaining feeder patterns, respecting neighborhoods; and considering facility age and condition. During the Nov. 22, 2021, Work Session, OREd presented a second preliminary draft scenario which suggested the closure of two elementary schools in the future - Stantonsburg and Winstead. In that scenario, Winstead would again be combined with Vinson-Bynum. Scenario B would bring the district’s utilization of elementary schools to 74 percent. The schools absorbing additional students would be at 90 percent capacity and still have room for growth. During the March 28, 2022, Work Session, it was again discussed that based on the OREd study, Winstead could be consolidated with Vinson-Bynum, with a few neighborhoods assigned to Hearne Elementary. In this scenario, it was repeated that Daniels Learning Center could be reassigned to the most recent addition to Winstead and the current Daniels Learning Center could be closed.
    During the April 13, 2022, Work Session, it was discussed that Winstead and Vinson-Bynum could be consolidated as early as the 2022-2023 school year with a few neighborhoods assigned to Hearne. The Board was also advised by Dr. Mills that closing Winstead would not address all of the capacity and efficiency issues at the elementary level, and it’s possible that additional decisions would be needed to address the Commissioners’ support for constructing a new school(s). After discussion, the Board directed the administration to move forward on the steps that would need to be taken to possibly close Winstead and also Toisnot Middle. Prior to any final decision being made about these schools, a public hearing would need to be scheduled to receive input from the community. Staff and families across the district were made aware of the public hearing, which was held May 9, 2022.


3. Why was Toisnot Middle chosen as a school to possibly close? 
     The Wilson County Board of Education is currently making decisions about long-range facilities planning, at the suggestion of the Wilson County Board of Commissioners. Long-range facilities planning includes the possible closure, consolidation and/or building of schools. The Commissioners have shared that it is difficult for the county to continue to provide funds to maintain older, underutilized schools when the funds could be spent upgrading newer facilities or building new schools.       
    The first step in the long-range facilities planning process was to gather research. During the Feb. 17, 2020, Board of Education meeting, the Board approved a contract with Operations Research and Education (OREd) Services to complete an Integrated Planning for School and Community (IPSAC) and Land Use Study for the district. The study included enrollment forecasting, demographics, historical enrollment and trending research to help provide information for the future to assist in the possible closure/consolidation of schools and/or the possible building of new schools. The Board also looked at the district’s five and ten year facilities plans and estimated costs for maintaining the sites.
    OREd indicated that WCS has seen a decline in enrollment. In the past six years, enrollment has declined by nearly 2,000 students. The district’s middle schools are operating at an average of 69 percent utilization, which means there are schools serving far fewer students than they were built to serve. Underutilization contributes to staffing and funding challenges. Toisnot Middle is experiencing underutilization. The current student enrollment is 364, and the student capacity is 670.
    Other factors, aside from underutilization, were also a part of the Board’s discussions regarding Toisnot. A key factor is the plan to construct a new Frederick Douglass Elementary in the future. At the May 10, 2021, Special Meeting, the Board was informed that Frederick Douglass would need careful consideration for renovations versus rebuilding because it was one of the oldest schools in the district and in need of major renovations. The OREd study forecasted the student enrollment at Frederick Douglass would steadily increase for the next eight years. At the Feb. 3, 2022, joint meeting between the Commissioners and the Board, the Commissioners supported building a new school and encouraged the Board to apply for a state grant to construct a new facility on the current site. The Board applied for the funding, but the project was not selected due to the large number of applications that were submitted by districts across the state, and the competitive nature of the process. However, the Commissioners are committed to the project and will explore traditional financing options. At the March 17, 2022, Work Session, Superintendent Dr. Lane Mills shared with the Board that decisions would have to be made regarding the placement of Frederick Douglass students and staff during construction. The property is not large enough to keep the students onsite in mobile units or by other means during the demolition and construction of a new school.
    During the March 28, 2022, Work Session, Dr. Mills shared with the Board that based on the OREd study, Toisnot could be an option for serving as the interim location for Frederick Douglass and future school construction. The students and staff at Toisnot could be reassigned to Darden Middle, Elm City Middle and Forest Hills Middle. Toisnot was suggested for several reasons, which included: the school's underutilization and declining enrollment; the large number of staff vacancies, which is currently 10 vacancies; and the large number of reassignment requests from Toisnot. Its central location, large square footage and the good condition of the building make it an optimal interim location during future school construction. Redistributing the Toisnot students to Darden, Elm City and Forest Hills would also increase student enrollment at those schools and increase the district’s overall utilization.
    During the April 13, 2022, Work Session, the Board was informed that Toisnot could be consolidated with Darden, Elm City and Forest Hills as early as the 2022-2023 school year. The Board was also advised by Dr. Mills that closing Toisnot would not address all of the capacity and efficiency issues at the elementary level, and it’s possible that additional decisions would be needed to address the Commissioners’ support for constructing a new school(s). After discussion, the Board directed the administration to move forward on the steps that would need to be taken to possibly close Toisnot and Winstead Elementary.  Prior to any final decision being made about these schools, a public hearing would need to be scheduled to receive input from the community. Staff and families across the district were made aware of the public hearing, which was held May 9, 2022. 

4. Why can’t Winstead Elementary be renovated? Has the board considered rebuilding the old side of Winstead?
     Winstead Elementary is one of the oldest schools in the district. It is in need of major and expensive renovations. The current Winstead building was constructed in 1953 with additions in 1988. The OREd study indicated a slight decline in student enrollment from the current year and forecasted that enrollment would continue to fluctuate over the next eight years. These factors make renovating the school a difficult decision. The Board has considered reassigning the Winstead students to Vinson-Bynum Elementary (with a few neighborhoods assigned to Hearne Elementary) and demolishing the old two-story wing. The remaining wing could house Daniels Learning Center and the district’s print shop or technology center.

5. Where is the money to rebuild schools?
     The Wilson County Board of Commissioners provides the funding for school facilities. The Commissioners are interested in funding major renovations and new school buildings across the district. The Commissioners have shared that it is difficult for the county to continue to provide funds to maintain older, underutilized schools when the funds could be spent upgrading newer facilities or building new schools. 

6. What are the other options being considered?
    The Board has discussed numerous scenarios involving the closure or consolidation of schools since the long-range facilities planning process began in 2020.

  • Stantonsburg Elementary could be combined with Lee Woodard Elementary
    • Lee Woodard has acreage to expand
    • Paving and roofing have been completed at Lee Woodard 
  • Vick Elementary could be combined with Barnes Elementary
    • Barnes has acreage for expansion and is built to allow for extension of wings
  • Wells Elementary could undergo major renovations and extend based on acreage
    • Hearne Elementary could be combined with Wells 
    • The existing Hearne building could become the Pre-K Center
    • Hearne is not able to expand due to limited acreage
  • Frederick Douglass Elementary will need careful consideration for renovations versus rebuilding. 
    • Commissioners are in support of building a new school on the existing location
  • Gardners Elementary and Stantonsburg Elementary 
    • Could consider a new school and combine
  • Rock Ridge Elementary and New Hope Elementary
    • Need to examine growth patterns in housing
    • Could consider a new school between Rock Ridge and New Hope 
  • Winstead Elementary could be combined with Vinson-Bynum Elementary and Hearne Elementary
    • Demolish the old two-story wing of Winstead 
    • The remaining wing could house Daniels Learning Center and the district’s print shop or the technology center
    • Daniels Learning Center could be closed
  • Toisnot Middle could serve as the interim location for Frederick Douglass Elementary and future school construction
    • The district would need to reassign students and staff to Darden Middle, Elm City Middle and Forest Hills Middle

7. Is there a date for a final decision?
     The Board of Education has not indicated a date for a final decision. The next scheduled Board meeting is Mon., May 16 at 6:30 p.m. 

8. If the schools are closed, what is the plan for distributing students and staff into new environments?
     If Winstead Elementary is closed, the students and staff would be reassigned largely to Vinson-Bynum Elementary. There would be a few students reassigned to Hearne Elementary. If Toisnot Middle is closed, the students and staff would be reassigned to Darden Middle, Elm City Middle and Forest Hills Middle. The reassignment process for students would be based on their address and which of the school options are closest to their residence. When the students are reassigned to the new schools, that will increase the need for teachers at those schools. The teachers will be reassigned to teach the classes that will be added when the enrollment increases. For instance, if the Winstead students were mostly reassigned to Vinson-Bynum, there would be a need to add teachers across grade levels to meet class size requirements.
    The district will keep staff and families informed of these decisions if the schools are closed. The district understands how the transition might be challenging for staff and families and will stay in communication to guide and support students, staff and families throughout the process.

9. Will overcrowding occur when students are moved from Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle into other schools?
    Overcrowding will not occur when students are moved to other schools because the school they will be reassigned to are under capacity. Also, when the students are reassigned to the new schools, that will increase the need for teachers at those schools. The teachers will be reassigned to teach the classes that will be added when the enrollment increases. For instance, if the Winstead Elementary students were mostly reassigned to Vinson-Bynum Elementary, there would be a need to add teachers across grade levels to meet class size requirements.

10. Will there be an increase in COVID-19 cases if the schools are consolidated and there are more students in each classroom? 
      WCS does not foresee COVID-19 cases increasing in classrooms because of the possible consolidations. Overcrowding will not occur when students are moved to other schools because the school they will be reassigned to are under capacity. Also, when the students are reassigned to the new schools, that will increase the need for teachers at those schools. The teachers will be reassigned to teach the classes that will be added when the enrollment increases. For instance, if the Winstead Elementary students were mostly reassigned to Vinson-Bynum Elementary, there would be a need to add teachers across grade levels to meet class size requirements. 

11. What is the transportation plan for students? Will there be enough bus drivers?
     If Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle are closed, bus transportation will be provided to the school to which they are assigned. The Transportation Department would create routes and families would be notified of bus stops and times. The Transportation Department will continue to work diligently to ensure there are bus drivers for the routes.  

12. What is the transportation plan for families who do not have transportation and can no longer walk to their child’s school for a meeting or an emergency?
     WCS is committed to parent involvement and supporting families. The school will work with families on a case-by-case basis to ensure they have a way to get to the school for meetings or in case of an emergency.

13. What is the School Nutrition plan to ensure there are enough servings of breakfast and lunch? 
     The School Nutrition Department is committed to planning for and providing enough servings of breakfast and lunch; however, there might be occasions where there are not enough servings. In that case, an alternate meal will be provided. The pandemic has created challenges in the supply chain; however, our School Nutrition Department is working through those challenges. If Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle close, the department will adjust the number of breakfast and lunch servings at the schools where the students are reassigned. 

14. How will the district address the negative comments in the community regarding Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle students and staff? 
     At the public hearing held May 9, 2022, several citizens voiced their concerns about conversations in the community that shed a negative light on the students and staff from Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle. Allegedly, the conversations were centered around other schools not wanting the students or staff at their schools. WCS values each and every student and staff member and will not tolerate comments perceived as threatening, disrespectful or discriminatory in our schools. We encourage the community to refrain from negative comments and show empathy and acceptance to the staff, students and their families if the schools close. The transition to a new school is a big step for anyone, and if the schools close, WCS is committed to ensuring that the students and staff who are reassigned feel welcomed, loved, valued and appreciated at their new school. We are dedicated to going above and beyond to make their transition as seamless and smooth as possible. 

15. Why were two Title I schools with a large number of economically disadvantaged students of color chosen as the schools to potentially close?
    Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle were not selected for possible closure based on their Title I status or the demographics of the student population. It was a combination of factors. When OREd presented school closure options to the Board of Education, the company considered the following priorities: balancing utilization and demographics; maximizing student proximity to schools, maintaining feeder patterns, respecting neighborhoods; and considering facility age and condition. The majority of schools in the district are Title I schools. Out of the 26 schools that comprise WCS, 17 are Title I schools - 12 of the 14 elementary schools and 4 of the 6 middle schools.

16. Why hasn’t anyone talked to staff at these schools about how they feel? Will staff be able to decide which school they are relocated to if the schools are closed?
    The Board has discussed numerous options involving the closure or consolidation of schools since the long-range facilities planning process began in 2020 (See Question 6). Conversations with staff at all of the schools that have been mentioned would have been preliminary until the Board made more concrete decisions. At the April 13, 2022, Work Session, the Board directed the administration to move forward on the steps that would need to be taken to possibly close Toisnot Middle and Winstead Elementary. Staff and families at those two schools, as well as staff and families across the district, were notified by a phone call and email on April 13 that the Board was taking steps to possibly close the two schools. Staff and families were also made aware that their input was needed. A public hearing was held May 9, 2022, to give staff, families and community members an opportunity to address the Board and share their concerns and questions.
    If schools are closed, district leaders and administrators will connect with staff regarding available positions and placement. WCS has assured staff that they will be given a position at another school.

17. Is it possible to give Winstead Elementary another year for parents and staff to adjust to such a drastic change? 
     No final decision on school closures has been made by the Board of Education at this time. The next scheduled Board meeting is Mon., May 16 at 6:30 p.m. 

18. Will the district provide mental health support to the students and staff affected by the potential transition to a new school?
    WCS is committed to supporting the mental health and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) of our students now more than ever before. The pandemic created numerous challenges for our students, and our schools have increased mental health support since we reopened our buildings. WCS has a great team of counselors, interventionalists, behavior support staff, nurses and social workers in place - in addition to our incredible teachers, support staff and administrators who are also intune to the needs of students. The district utilizes resources from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), as guided by the state, and other resources for SEL including the Panorama survey. WCS is also working in partnership with the NC Department of Public Instruction in developing an implementation plan for supporting the social emotional needs of staff and students.
    Our district understands how difficult the transition process might be for students and staff if the schools are closed. We will provide support for the students and staff who are affected and ensure that they have the resources needed for success. The transition to a new school is a big step for anyone, and if the schools close, WCS is committed to ensuring that the students and staff who are reassigned feel welcomed, loved, valued and appreciated at their new school. We are dedicated to going above and beyond to make their transition as seamless and smooth as possible.


19. What will happen to the Toisnot Middle building once construction is completed for Frederick Douglass Elementary?
    If Toisnot Middle is closed, the Board of Education has discussed the building serving as the interim location for Frederick Douglass Elementary students and staff while their new building is under construction. If the Commissioners are supportive of building additional schools, Toisnot could serve as an interim location for future school construction. 

20. Can parents decide what school their children attend if Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle are closed? 
    WCS is committed to neighborhood schools. If Winstead Elementary and Toisnot Middle were to close, students would be assigned to schools in the closest proximity to their homes. This process aids in bus transportation and builds community within neighborhoods. However, WCS does provide families with the opportunity to seek reassignment to a school not in their attendance zone based on criteria established by Board of Education, Policy 6210. More information about reassignment can be found by clicking HERE.


21. Why aren’t exit interviews being done with Toisnot Middle staff to find out why there are so many vacancies this year? 
     Staff who wish to share their reason for leaving WCS are welcomed to do so, but not required. The resignation form has a section entitled, Reason for Resignation. The section allows all employees to indicate the purpose of their departure and share as much as they would like about the reason for their decision. 

22. How will the district address students who are considered “rivals” being consolidated into the same school? 
     At the public hearing held May 9, 2022, several citizens voiced their concerns about students who are considered “rivals” being consolidated into the same school. WCS understands that rivalries might exist among students for a variety of reasons, such as academic competitions, athletics or for more personal reasons. WCS values each and every student and will not tolerate comments or actions perceived as threatening, disrespectful or discriminatory in our schools. The transition to a new school is a big step for anyone, and if the schools close, WCS is committed to ensuring that the students who are reassigned feel welcomed, loved, valued and appreciated at their new school. We are dedicated to going above and beyond to make their transition as seamless and smooth as possible. 

23. What will happen to the Winstead Elementary community if the school is closed?
    WCS appreciates the love and support the community shows the students, staff and families of Winstead Elementary and the pride taken in the school. If the school closes, WCS understands how difficult that will be for the community. However, WCS believes that the Winstead community will shift its support and embrace Vinson-Bynum Elementary and any other schools where the students and staff will be assigned.