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Schools double as churches during tough economic times

Posted May 16, 2010
Updated May 17, 2010

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— Steep budget cuts in Johnston County aren't only impacting the schools, but some churches as well.

Every Sunday, the cafeteria at Archer Lodge Middle in Wendell is converted into a sanctuary for Christ Church.

"I don't think of it as being a cafeteria. I think of it as a worship center,” Christ Church attendee Jane Wolfe said.

Christ Church is a new nondenominational church that rents space at the school because it can't yet afford its own facility.

"We were 19 people when we started. Regardless of how much we personally sacrificed financially, it wasn't going to be enough to buy land and build a building,” Christ Church Pastor Phil Spry said.

The church pays $566 a month to rent space at the school. However, the Johnston County School Board recently voted to increase the fee it charges churches and non-profit groups to use its facilities.

The 19 churches countywide currently renting space at schools have not been told how steep the fee hike will be, but Superintendent Ed Croom said it will be less than originally proposed.

"I am fearful for the minority congregations, the African American and Hispanic congregations because they are operating on a razor-thin margin on their budgets," Spry said.

The fee increase will be the first for school facilities since the early 90s, Croom said.

Johnston County Schools continues to look for ways to balance its 2010-11 budget.  The district plans to eliminate 113 teaching positions next year because of financial cuts, district spokeswoman Terri Sessoms has said.

Sessoms said the cuts are state-driven but that it was unclear what the shortfall would be for the superintendent's budget until the state and county determine their allocations.

The district also plans to eliminate 12.5 custodian positions and two assistant principal positions.

Despite the job eliminations, as well as a $500,000 cut in spending on teaching assistants, Johnston County Schools has requested $56.2 million from the county – the same amount as the county funding during the 2009-10 school year.

12 Comments

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 17, 2010

    Soli Deo, Can you pretend for a minute that the group renting a publicly-owned school is not Christian?

    Ok. We now have Satanists, "radical" Muslims teaching Jihad, and the KKK all paying to rent our neighborhood school. Ok for you?

    Do you really want to open this door and allow ALL religious groups to rent public schools?...because you can't just restrict it one religion, right?

    Keep in mind that they may even "accidently" leave some of their "Satan is Lord" literature in some of the lockers, hallways and bathrooms. Oops. ;-)

  • Boogereater May 17, 2010

    Shouldn't this be the other way around? Our schools are crowded and education is taking a dump but everyone is focused on religion.

  • BubbaDuke May 17, 2010

    And to all the ignorant people who believe there is a Constitutional prohibition concerning church and state - it simply means that the fed govt can establish any state religion. The Constitution left it up to the states to decide if their citizens wanted an official religion; but it certainly didn't ban faith in government.
    laursadad
    GOLO member since September 4, 2008
    May 17, 2010 11:02 a.m.

    I meant "can't" establish any state religion.

    Having said that - the government has introduced the religion of science and evolution in state run schools - clearly in violation of such a law if that law really existed...but it doesn't.

    Christians are not the only faiths to use school facilities. In Wake County, Indians use the facilities weekly for traditional dances and meetings. The YMCA and the Boy Scouts also use school facilities. Baseball and soccer fields are also rented for community and corporate sporting events. The facilities are there to use; they've been paid for by taxpaye

  • BubbaDuke May 17, 2010

    School rentals provide much needed funds for our area schools; and it precludes the need for a building for a church family. The problem with many churches is that they want to have a five or ten year plan that includes a bigger/better building to meet in - as though they were rebuilding Solomon's temple so that God will want to be present in their midst. Churches are not buildings, and God has no interest in buildings.

    The problem with not allowing churches and organizations to rent school property is that there are not many affordable alternatives. Money spent on worship centers mean less money to spend helping the people in need.

    And to all the ignorant people who believe there is a Constitutional prohibition concerning church and state - it simply means that the fed govt can establish any state religion. The Constitution left it up to the states to decide if their citizens wanted an official religion; but it certainly didn't ban faith in government.

  • Soli Deo May 17, 2010

    "operating on a thin budget...lol...check out the pastor's car"

    Didn't see the car on the video or the photos. Your point? My pastor drives a car with high mileage and dents he couldn't afford to get repaired. Not all pastors drive BMWs.

    "Does anyone supporting these Christians even feel a tiny bit "weird" if any of these groups met in a public school? Does this really seem appropriate?"

    So all religious groups should be banned from renting schools? Or just the Christians? Either way, that would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 17, 2010

    Can a Satan worshipping group, the Islamic Group of Jihad or KKK also rent space at this public school? Are there any restrictions about who can rent space or does anyone with money make it in?

    Does anyone supporting these Christians even feel a tiny bit "weird" if any of these groups met in a public school? Does this really seem appropriate?

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT May 17, 2010

    oogum boogum: "I think this is borderline racist. The implication here is that churches run by minorities can't seem to operate, whereas churches run by white people can pay their bills."

    Wow! You people will call anything racist if any minority is referenced in a quote. Its simply factual information. Who is the real racist here? Seems as you are the one trying to prove that you aren't racist.

  • fishon May 17, 2010

    Big deal.
    I attended Catholic grade school. Our cafeteria was also our gym/basketball court, and services were held there for about 13 years until the parish had enough people and money to build the Church.

  • Pseudonym May 17, 2010

    Bjensen8,

    I fail to see how this is a separation of church and state issue. The churches are not running the schools, and vice-versa. The churches are simply renting space. No different than a church renting a hotel's meeting room or office space from Highwoods.

  • Pseudonym May 17, 2010

    Quote from the article: ""I am fearful for the minority congregations, the African American and Hispanic congregations because they are operating on a razor-thin margin on their budgets," Spry said."

    I think this is borderline racist. The implication here is that churches run by minorities can't seem to operate, whereas churches run by white people can pay their bills. Not to mention the fact, as Martin Luther King Jr so famously stated, that 11:00 AM on Sunday Morning is the most segregated time in an American week.

    Fellow Christians, we still have A LOT of work to do.

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