05/11/05 — Commissioners tour schools; look at buildings in the city

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Commissioners tour schools; look at buildings in the city

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on May 11, 2005 1:51 PM

Wayne County commissioners ended their tour of all the county's public schools Tuesday, after spending the morning visiting schools inside Goldsboro city limits.

Commissioners said the four-day tour that began last week helped put the schools' building needs in better perspective and would help them as they prepared next year's budget.

The county Board of Education is asking for more money to improve school facilities.

"It's given me a better understanding of the needs," said Commissioner John Bell. "I wish the general public could come and see these schools, especially those in the central attendance area."

Bell said that he believes many Wayne County residents would have a different attitude about the city schools if they could visit the schools as the commissioners did.

"The students have a focused approach," he said. "There is no rowdiness."

The board learned that Goldsboro High School has a capacity to hold 1,000 students, but only has 700 students enrolled.

Sprunt Hill, the assistant school superintendent for auxiliary services, said the high school once housed 1,200 students but pointed out that some of the classrooms are now used for other purposes.

Hill said that Goldsboro High School was one of five sites for the Wayne Initiative for School Health, or WISH, centers. The centers were established in 1997 as a way to make health services more accessible to youths. The WISH center, Hill said, would also reduces the student capacity at the high school.

The other centers are located at Dillard, Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Brogden middle schools.

Commissioner Andy Anderson asked Pat Burden, the principal of Goldsboro High School, her opinion of magnet schools.

Ms. Burden said she was in favor of the magnet concept, which allows as many as four schools to operate at a single campus.

She said that curriculums allowing students to graduate with college credits, or concentrating on math, sciences or performing arts could be developed over time.

Federal bureaucracy could be avoided, she explained, if the magnet concept was used without making the school a magnet school.

Bell said he supported the magnet concept for Goldsboro High School.

"It would be a great opportunity to improve the curriculum and bring in students," he said. "I could support that 100 percent."

Goldsboro High School is in need of renovations, Hill said.

He said that the school's auditorium was widely used, even by the community.

"They've been using this more and more since the Paramount burned," Hill said.

The auditorium has a new stage floor and an impressive computerized sound system, but the seating needs to be improved, he said.

Ms. Burden said that there isn't enough space to offer art classes to the more advanced art students. The art room needs electrical outlets, a new floor and complete renovations, she said.

"We need a modernized center with more cabinet space," she said.

The school board would also like to enclose an open space between buildings at the high school to give students a place to go in bad weather.

"We also think it would be safer," Ms. Burden said. "This area is so close to the road."

Hill said that many people do not know about the Wade Edwards laboratory at the school. The lab features computers and is available for use by anyone in the community, not just students.

After touring the high school, the group visited Goldsboro Middle School, which was built in 1956. It underwent a major renovation in 1989, but Hill said that the gymnasium needs to be converted to a media center, and that a new gym would then need to be built.

Commissioner Bud Gray said that he thought the school tours had been helpful.

"Eastern Wayne Middle School and Norwayne need some attention," Gray said. "The others are in pretty good shape."

Commissioner Efton Sager said it was beneficial to see exactly what the needs were for the schools.

Commissioner Atlas Price, a former member of the school board, said he believes there has been an improvement in school facilities over the past few years.

"I do have some concern about Eastern Wayne Middle and Norwayne," Price said. "There's overcrowding, the schools are old and the flooding is terrible."

Price said that the schools at the southern end of the county seemed to be in "fair shape."

"We need to concentrate on adding classrooms," Price said.

Commissioner Jack Best said he believes the schools are the first priority for the commissioners.

"In my opinion, everything else comes after the schools," he said.