09/17/06 — City schools next on facilities agenda

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City schools next on facilities agenda

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 17, 2006 2:04 AM

The third in a series of six public forums to air residents' concerns about education in Wayne County is scheduled for Monday night at Goldsboro High School.

The 6:30 p.m. meeting is geared to parents and students in the central attendance area, which includes the high school as well as School Street, Carver Heights and North Drive elementary schools as well as Goldsboro Intermediate and Dillard Middle schools.

The Master Facilities Plan team, which includes representatives from the school board and the county commissioners, is hosting the meeting. The two boards are considering a five-year facilities plan that tops $90 million in construction and projects. The notion of a bond referendum has been bandied about as a means to fund the plan.

The sessions at each of the six area high schools are designed to take the message into the community and then receive feedback from residents and parents.

The format for the sessions is consistent, officials say. The first half of the 90-minute meeting features an overview of the process proposed by Evergreen Solutions, a consulting firm hired by the county commission to assess school facilities needs, and discussing specific proposals for the area where the meeting is held.

The remaining time allows advisory councils from each of the schools as well as audience members to raise questions and concerns about the county schools.

The first public meeting took place at Charles B. Aycock High School on Aug. 28, with more than 200 residents focussed on the schools' overcrowding in the northern end of the county.

At the Sept. 10 meeting in the Spring Creek district, an estimated 100 citizens attended. Discussion centered around the need for a new middle school and repairs to the elementary school.

School officials say they expect a good turnout for Monday's meeting and anticipate capacity at the schools to be among the topics discussed.

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said the notion of "empty seats" in any of the schools is always an issue.

"I think one of the questions will be, you have got lots of seats available. Do we have seats available? Absolutely," he said.

As of the 10-day enrollment at the 32 public schools, the figure used to determine teacher assignments and program needs, Hill said some schools exceeded capacity and others still have space. The tally of seats available comes to 2,228, Hill said, but they are divided around the county.

In some cases, though, the numbers can be misleading. At School Street Elementary School, for example, Hill said two classrooms have been absorbed by the More at Four program. The school is also required to have a parent resource room, two self-contained classrooms, two classes for exceptional children, plus rooms for art and music classes.

And all of that counts, according to the state guidelines for determining capacity, Hill said.

As part of his presentation on Monday night, Hill said he will go over the $8 million designated for the central attendance area in the five-year facilities plan. The bulk of it at this point will be deferred maintenance projects.

At each of the six schools in the city, the projects include electrical upgrades, replacing doors, hardware and bathroom partitions. Roof repairs are also slated for School Street, Dillard Middle, Goldsboro Intermediate, and Goldsboro High School.

At Carver Heights Elementary, additional projects include air conditioning the gym, HVAC upgrades and floor covering. At School Street, the plan also calls for adding restrooms and maintaining the circle driveway.

Officials want to air condition the gym and renovate restrooms at Dillard Middle, as well as install a new fire alarm and handle asbestos abatement.

Perhaps the biggest need is at Goldsboro Intermediate School, Hill said, where the plan calls for adding a 4,500-square-foot new media center. Two classrooms have had to be converted for use as a media center, he said.

Compared to other sections of the county, the city schools "are in pretty good shape," Hill said, explaining that most have terrazzo floors, which were costly at the outset but are "lifetime stuff" that doesn't require replacing as often.

A lot of work has already been done along the way, he added. At the high school, for example, tile in all of the classrooms has been laid to replace the formerly wooden floors, and the chiller that air conditions the B wing at the school has been replaced.

The gym has also been air-conditioned, bleachers purchased, and upgrades made to the football and baseball fields, he said.

Proposed future projects at the high school include art room renovations, auditorium seating, additional office space and adding a student commons area.

The larger vestibule-type area, Hill said, would provide students a place to gather after lunch, especially during inclement weather.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said he looks forward to the continuation of the community meetings.

"I appreciate the comments that the Advisory Councils are making, the questions they're asking," he said.

With Monday marking the midway point through the series, Taylor said he is "hoping to move quickly so we can bring the process to a close. In order to get these facilities under way, we have got facilities needs that we need to take care of as quickly as possible."

Remaining public forums will be held in the southern, western and eastern parts of the county. On Monday, Sept. 25, the group travels to Southern Wayne High School and incorporate Brogden Middle, Brodgen Primary, Carver Elementary, Grantham, Mount Olive Middle, Southern Academy.

The Oct. 2 meeting will be held at Rosewood High School, which includes Rosewood Elementary, Middle and High schools. The final session takes place at Eastern Wayne High School on Oct. 9. Other schools represented are Eastern Wayne Elementary and Middle schools, Greenwood Middle, Meadow Lane Elementary, and Tommy's Road Elementary.