MAXTON — R.B. Dean-Townsend School has worked to greatly reduce the number of students without internet access as the period of virtual learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the school’s principal said Tuesday.
Angela Faulkner said this as part of a presentation to the Maxton Board of Commissioners during the board’s regular monthly meeting. She also told the commissioners that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic there were about 175 families with students at the school that had no internet access. That number is now down to 29 students out of the 458 enrolled at the school.
The students who have no internet access are receiving a flash drive each week with prerecorded lessons and assignments uploaded onto them.
Internet access was the school’s biggest concern when in-person classes stopped in mid-March, Faulkner said. Spectrum has helped by providing inexpensive access for educational use to many families served by the school.
Faulkner said the county soon will be sending out buses that will serve as WiFi hotspots, and some businesses in Maxton have opened their doors to those students needing internet access.
In her report to the commissioners, Police Chief Na’Shayla Nelson said calls for service were up 92% in August as compared to the same month in 2019. A large reason was an influx of overdose calls, she said.
The department is reaching out to partners to get more Narcan for use in drug emergencies, is making sure its officers are trained in handling drug emergencies and is gathering data on the issue, Nelson said.
Officers are having to work overtime because of the increase in calls and because the department has a staffing shortage, Nelson said.
The department is the first in North Carolina to participate in Operation Juice Box, a national program in which officers pass out juice boxes to children in the areas they patrol, Nelson said. That effort will be ongoing.
National Night Out, scheduled for October, has been canceled, Nelson said. But Maxton police officers will be visible out in the community on that date.
Also on Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the 2020 U.S. Census. Both Town Manager Roosevelt Henegan and Commissioner Virgil Hutchinson emphasized the importance of Maxton residents participating in the population count. Hutchinson said participation among Maxton residents currently is only 43%, with the Census ending at the end of September.
“We need to talk to our neighbors and friends about the Census, so that’s the money we can look forward to,” Hutchinson said.
Resident Robert Macy spoke during the public forum portion of the meeting about the high level of littering in Maxton. Commissioner Elizabeth Gilmore asked why the town could not better enforce its littering ordinances and post some signs reminding residents not to litter.
“I think if you have signs visible it improves,” Gilmore said. “But I haven’t seen a ‘Do not litter’ sign around Maxton in a long time.”
Henegan said the town could get signs, which he thinks can be done administratively and without a board vote. He said enforcement is difficult because police officers can only enforce anti-litter laws when they see littering taking place. Commissioner Paul McDowell said any citizen that sees littering and is willing to go to court can charge the offender, and that citizens need to step up and do so.
Mayor Paul Davis said the town was notified by letter that the Lumber River Council of Governments would not have its annual dinner and awards ceremony this year, but its annual meeting will take place virtually.
In other business, the commissioners approved the consent agenda, which included only minutes from previous meetings and tax adjustments from Aug. 13 to Sept. 8.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected]