05/08/05 — Officials half-way through with tour of county schools

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Officials half-way through with tour of county schools

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 8, 2005 2:03 AM

After almost three days of visiting classrooms, offices, gymnasiums and libraries, Wayne County commissioners and school board members are about half-way through their tour of all 31 public schools in the county.

They plan to finish up this week by visiting the schools inside the Goldsboro city limits.

The purpose of the tour is to give commissioners a better understanding of the school system's facility needs, and to help them learn more about various programs offered at the schools.

Commissioners have listened quietly as Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, has pointed out building flaws during the tours.

On Wednesday, the group visited Charles B. Aycock High School, where several commissioners noticed a pile of broken bricks at the school entrance.

Debris mingled with the broken brick bits, and a newspaper poked out between cracks in the bricks.

Aycock has 1,200 students, and is overcrowded, Hill said.

Randy Bledsoe, the principal at Aycock, said the school has every classroom filled each and every period and added that a dozen teachers work without a permanent classroom, moving from room to room as classroom space becomes available during different periods of the day.

Space is precious, Bledsoe said. What was once a locker room is now used as a classroom. A former book closet now houses offices for personnel for the exceptional children program.

Aycock needs 20 new classrooms, a bigger cafeteria, and air conditioning in its kitchen, Bledsoe said. He said the school also needs a larger computer lab and more office space.

"The media center is not big enough for the staff to get together for a meeting," Bledsoe said.

After Aycock, the two boards went to nearby Norwayne Middle School, which was built in 1958.

Norwayne sits at the bottom of a hill, and is a catch basin when it rains.

"I've seen water standing in the gym," said school board member George Moye.

Norwayne also suffers from over-crowding, school officials said. With 900 students, multiple lunch periods are required to ensure there is enough room in the cafeteria. The first lunch begins at 10:15 a.m.

Norwayne's classrooms, many of which are accessible only by an outside door, are also in need of renovation, commissioners were told.

School Board Chairman Lehman Smith said that an additional school needs to be built in the northern part of the county to relieve the overcrowding.

"It would really be good to be able to build two more schools," Smith said. "But we know we can't get two schools, so we're trying to maintain this one and make some improvements."

Norwayne is just one of several middle schools in need of air conditioning for its gym and cafeteria, school board members told commissioners.

The two boards also toured Edgewood School, Tommy's Road Elementary, Fremont Elementary, Northwest Elementary, Northeast Elementary, Eastern Wayne Middle, Grantham, Southern Academy, Carver Elementary, Mount Olive Middle, Brogden Primary, Brogden Middle, Spring Creek High, Spring Creek Elementary, and Southern Wayne High School.

School officials said Southern Wayne needs to have its administration area and locker rooms renovated, have its classroom lighting and plumbing fixtures replaced. Its kitchen also needs air-conditioning, they said.

Fremont Elementary School needs to air condition its gym and auditorium plus upgrade its media center, school officials said. The gyms at Southern Academy and Belfast Academy need air conditioning as well as the kitchen at Grantham. Grantham's classrooms are also in need of renovation, they said.

The two boards will meet Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the school administration building on Royall Avenue to continue the tour.