MOREHEAD CITY — After winning a hard-fought battle to keep their school open for the 2019-20 academic year, Marine Science and Technologies Early College High School students head to their first day of classes Wednesday.

There will be an orientation for new and returning MaST students Tuesday, and the new school year begins at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Bryant Student Center on the campus of Carteret Community College, where the early college high school is housed. Now entering its second year of operation, MaST will welcome 100 students – 50 new freshmen and 50 returning sophomores.

“MaST had a success (sic) first year and we look forward to that continuing this year,” MaST Principal DeAnne Rosen wrote in an email statement to the News-Times Thursday. “I personally am very grateful to the parents, students and staff members of the MaST and CCC for the continued support.”

MaST is the first early college high school in the county, and students must apply and be accepted to attend. The school, which has a focus on the marine sciences and maritime trades, allows students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously beginning their freshman year.

Until last Monday,  whether MaST would open this school year was up in the air. The saga began June 20, when the County Board of Education voted 4-3 to close the school based on a recommendation from county commissioners to reassign about $185,000 in local MaST funding to save several teaching positions. Commissioners also expressed concern the state budget would not include funding for early college high schools.

In the weeks since that initial decision, MaST students, parents and supporters have been outspoken in their opposition, urging the board to reconsider. As required by state statute, the BOE commissioned a study on the impacts of closing the school and created a committee to guide the formal closure procedures.

The school board held a meeting July 24 to hear comments on the proposed school closure, another requirement by the state. At the end of that meeting, an attorney representing MaST students and parents presented a temporary injunction that had been filed to halt the imminent closure, along with a civil complaint alleging the school board did not follow due process in the steps to close the school.

The BOE met July 29 to consider the MaST closure a final time. During that meeting, the board voted 5-2 to open the school as scheduled, rescinding its previous decision. Board members John McLean, Melissa Ehlers, Clark Jenkins, Jake Godwin and Brittany Wheatly voted in favor of opening MaST, while Chairman Travis Day and Kathryn Chadwick were opposed.

When the county agreed to fund MaST in 2018, it committed about $185,000 in local funds for the school’s inaugural year, with an additional $125,000 from the community college to start the school. The county did not receive any money from the state to operate MaST in 2018-19, but officials at the time said beginning in 2019-20, the state was expected to provide a grant of $180,000 per year for five years to operate the school.

So far, state funding for MaST has not been realized because of a veto of the state budget by Gov. Roy Cooper. However, Mr. McLean said based on conversations he’s had with state representatives, the money is all but guaranteed.

CCC President Dr. John Hauser has offered MaST a $180,000 loan to keep the school afloat until state funding comes through. If the state does not approve funding for MaST, the money would instead be a gift.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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