BEAUFORT — While a petition to save the Marine Science & Technologies early college high school is circulating, county school officials have scheduled a series of meetings to consider the school’s closure.

A committee consisting of the County Board of Education’s curriculum, finance and technology work group will meet at 2 p.m. Monday to consider, review and take such action as is appropriate on a study the committee authorized, on behalf of the Board of Education, relating to the question of the closure of the cooperative innovative high school known as MaST.

The BOE will have a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, during which it will hold a public hearing to receive comments from the public on closing MaST.

The school board will conduct an additional special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, July 29 to consider the question of closing MaST. The board could take action at this meeting.  

All of the meetings will be held in the boardroom of the county public school system’s central services offices, 107 Safrit Drive, Beaufort.

In the meantime, supporters of MaST have begun circulating a petition for people to sign in support of keeping the school open. It can be found at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf2ndiD2Yf0TjNLqNxY_gbymAWv6uuAjMQy5mhFbtFnmZbOUg/viewform.

The issue of closing the school, which last year opened on the campus of Carteret Community College, has been controversial. Despite pleas from MaST parents, students and supporters during the public comment time of the June 11 school board meeting, the board voted June 20 in a split vote of 4-3 to not use local funds to keep the school open.

Instead, some board members said they wanted to use those funds to save seven teacher positions that may be lost due to federal and state funding cuts. The lack of funding for MaST would result in the school’s closure.

The school board’s action was based on a recommendation by county commissioners during a June 17 meeting that the school board use $245,958 in county funds earmarked for MaST for the 2019-20 fiscal year to save the positions. The county allocated $186,000 for MaST the previous year.

Commissioners and school board members cited concerns over whether the General Assembly would provide state funds for MaST. The current version of the state budget provides $180,000 for the next five years for early college high schools.

However, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget over concerns about a lack of increased funding for Medicaid and other issues. While the budget debate continues, the state will operate under the current budget, which did not include funds for MaST.

During the commissioners’ meeting, CCC President Dr. John Hauser said the college was prepared to provide financial and faculty support to keep MaST open.

The 100 students who were slated to start at MaST Wednesday, Aug. 7 are in limbo. Several families have indicated they would home-school their students rather than return to public schools.

The school opened last year with 50 freshmen and was scheduled to start with 50 new freshmen this year, along with the rising sophomore class. MaST was scheduled to add 50 new students over the next three years, capping at 200.

The school offers students an opportunity to gain college and high school credits simultaneously.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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