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High Point Mayor Calls For Committee To Look Into Breaking Away From Guilford County Schools

Mayor Jay Wagner says 25 years after merging three districts into one, it's time to take an honest look at how public schools in High Point stack up.

HIGH POINT, N.C. — An idea by High Point's mayor at a meeting Tuesday is getting a lot of attention. 

Mayor Jay Wagner suggested looking into the possibility of separating High Point schools from the Guilford County School district. 

"I want to be really clear about what I was talking about," he told WFMY News 2, "It's been 25 years since the merger of the three school systems in Guilford County. And I think, it's worth our while now to take a step back after 25 years and kind of evaluate where we are.

"What I proposed, essentially, is a feasibility study, and appointing a committee to take a look at it and see, are we better off than we were 25 years ago? Are our kids being better educated than they were 25 years ago? And if not, then what do we do about it?"

Wagner says one of those options is separating from Guilford County Schools, and reverting to a city-run school district. It's something he says many people have called for over the years. 

"Really, it's just about taking a step back, taking a look and seeing if we are proceeding in the right way to educate our kids in the best possible manner," he said. 

Mayor Wagner says often he finds people have a negative perception about High Point schools. But he believes the facts and data will help everyone figure out what's best.

"[The study] may come back, and say, hey, this merger has saved us money. We are educating kids better. And we're going to continue doing what we've been doing," he said, "That's certainly a possible outcome. If it is not, then we have to look at all of our options moving forward.

"Generally, I think there is a perception that a lot of our schools tend to score low, that they’re not very good."

Khem Irby, a Guilford County School Board Member, says her district covers several High Point Schools. She's unsure about the idea for the city to break away, but supports a study. 

"It's a lot of factors that you would have to think about in regard to breaking away from the county and deciding we want to go back," she said, "My priority is what's best for kids. If somehow, they can pull out of a report that it would be better for the children that live in High Point, then I'm all in."

Many High Point parents and grandparents say there needs to be some kind of change, and some say - it makes sense for city schools to break away. However, they worry about how much of a burden it could put on taxpayers, and if the city could get enough funding from county commissioners. 

Guilford County Schools Superintendent, Sharon L. Contreras released the following statement:

"As the third-largest district in North Carolina, Guilford County Schools students are afforded opportunities including world-class programs in Career and Technical Education, visual and performing arts and extensive AP and IB programs. A smaller school district will eliminate the operational efficiencies that a large district can provide such as transportation and food services. This will place a greater burden on its taxpayers, further exacerbating the problem of our underfunded schools. I invite our elected officials to join us in seeking solutions to eradicating poverty and advocating to our state elected officials for better funding for our schools, for our buildings and for our teachers. Only when we work together will we succeed in creating real change for the students of Guilford County, including High Point."

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