08/08/06 — BOE suggests options for facilities

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BOE suggests options for facilities

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 8, 2006 1:48 PM

It will take more than meetings and building plans to take care of the school system's facilities' needs, or school officials will be forced to explore other options, the Board of Education said Monday night.

"We're reaching the critical stage," board member Lehman Smith said.

The school board is scheduled to have a joint meeting with county commissioners on Aug. 15 to discuss the facilities plan. The master plan committee is the offshoot of a study done by Evergreen Solutions, a consulting firm hired by the commission to report on the school system's building needs.

Board member George Moye said the study has been completed, and the board is ready to implement its recommendations.

"It's taken awhile for everything to gel, but it looks like the ball is about to get rolling," he said.

Moye said he appreciated the commission's efforts, but noted the urgency of taking action soon.

"The needs for our schools are getting to the point where they're pretty critical," he said.

If they get much worse, Moye added, students won't have a place to sit.

"If we don't get some relief pretty quick, we're going to have to look at some alternatives."

Moye suggested the school system might consider year-round schools, although not in the sense that students attend classes all year.

"But rather, three or four tracks -- the majority of kids would be in school at all times," he explained. "You might have three tracks with kids going to school nine weeks, be off three weeks so that you have always got a portion of students that are in school at one time."

While it could create higher utility costs during the summer months, Moye said it would also make more efficient use of space.

"It's something that we really are going to have to look at if we don't get on a fast track to building. It's not something I'm crazy about, but if we don't get on the fast track, we'll have no choice," he said.

Moye said that he did not want to give the impression that the school system has decided or pushing the idea of going to year-round schools, "but we have got to look at something to relieve the overcrowding."

If a building plan is put together soon, that would not be necessary, he added.

Board member Pete Gurley agreed needs are increasing.

"The sad part about it is if we meet on Tuesday and approve something, it will be five years before we can start on building," he said. "We need to think about some alternatives."

Smith said Tuesday's meeting will be a starting point and added that he appreciated the fact that the commission has made efforts to get the school system on track.

Regarding the notion of year-round schools, Smith said, "We're not Wake County. Our biggest problem here is mandated classroom size and population shifts (around the county)."

It will require drastic measures, though, he said.

"Step up, get the parents, grandparents and taxpayers to step up and realize what our responsibilities are to the students of Wayne County," he said.