10/03/06 — Rosewood parents eye future growth

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Rosewood parents eye future growth

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 3, 2006 1:51 PM

ROSEWOOD -- Parents and residents said Monday although they are not going to benefit much from the proposed $90 million school facilities improvement plan, they support the effort to put a bond referendum before voters.

The more than 100 who gathered for the second to last facilities community meeting at Rosewood High School had few complaints for the master facilities plan team, with several staunchly supporting the bond idea and the county's board of education.

Some also said they did not want to hear anymore bickering between the county commission and the school board. Getting facilities for the county's children should be the officials' most important goal, they said.

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, announced at the outset that the team's proposed $90 million five-year construction plan contained nothing for Rosewood.

"However," he said, "that does not mean that you are forgotten."

Hill reviewed what had already been done for the three Rosewood schools in recent years. In 1999, he said, a desperately needed elementary school was constructed using state bond money. It is currently at capacity because of growth in the area.

Rosewood High, built in 1984, is slightly over capacity, he said. With enrollment hovering at 595, the targeted capacity is 553, according to the formula suggested by Evergreen Solutions, a consulting firm hired by the county commission to ascertain construction and facilities needs in the county schools.

A gymnasium was built at the high school using 1996 state bond money, which was matched by the commission, Hill said.

"It was one of the few high schools in the state that did not have a gym," Hill said.

At Rosewood Middle, the main building was constructed in 1923. Present enrollment is slightly below the 500 capacity, with 484 reported as of the 10th day of school, Hill said.

In the extended plan, he said there will also have to be some decisions made about the middle school building, whether it needs to be maintained or replaced. New classrooms, offices and a media center are among the needs, as well as air conditioning the gymnasium, he said.

Stuart Kornegay, member of the middle school advisory council, said he appreciated the board's interest in providing the climate control, saying, "It gets mighty hot in the gym."

Rosewood's absence from the five-year plan does not suggest the plan is all-inclusive and nothing needs to be added, Hill noted. He explained that the school board had approved several projects that have been completed at the schools. The middle school has received new gutters and aluminum doors on the side of the gym, with a phone system installed at the high and middle schools, and an $80,000 fire alarm system added at the high school.

The school board has also instructed Hill to look at a "Phase two contract" to replace chiller pumps and lighting fixtures throughout the high school, he said.

"That does not mean in the future that we're not looking to do additional things in the Rosewood area. In the long-range plan for Evergreen, we're looking at adding additional classrooms at Rosewood Elementary ... and also looking at air conditioning the gym and kitchen area in Rosewood Middle," he said.

Paul Worrell of the high school's advisory council asked what would happen beyond the five-year plan if current growth patterns continue. He said with Rosewood Elementary already exceeding capacity, the possibility of more subdivisions being added and a new Wal-Mart being built could bring even more students to the area.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said he could not address the projected impact such variables would have, but noted that school officials aren't keen on having to keep adding mobile units for classrooms.

Worrell said he has been concerned since seeing how quickly the northern end of the county grew.

"I just want to know if we'll be covered if we have that kind of growth," he said.

Hill said the school board has actually anticipated the growth. Rosewood Elementary School, for example, was built with the capability of adding on to each wing. The core area of the school is large enough to accommodate a large number of students, he said.

School board member Lehman Smith said he understood concerns over Rosewood's seeming omission from the current building plan, but this is phase one of a three-phase plan, he said.

"If we get the OK, we hope we can look at expanding to phase two," he said. "If our priorities stay the same and our growth patterns -- our 20-year plan will be in the five-year plan in the next five years."

During public comment, John Snell said he was concerned over "vicious rumors" he has heard recently in the community, specifically attendance lines. Snell said his daughter attends Rosewood High School, but is supposed to be at Charles B. Aycock High School, a school that is exceedingly overcrowded. He asked whether out-of-district students would be allowed to remain at Rosewood.

Rumors about subdivisions being redistricted is another potential worry, he said. While Wayne County's dilemma is nothing compared to that being experienced in Wake County, Snell said it is still a concern for those with children who participate in the local open transfer option.

Several spoke out in support of the school board and its plans for the public schools' future.

Dave Thomas, a retired educator and coach, said he had attended all five of the meetings that have been held.

"I really support your five-year facilities plan," he said. "I think that you have brought out the most needed things at this present time. Thank you for giving the community a chance to give their input."

Ray Taylor, a Falling Brook resident whose wife teaches at Charles B. Aycock and his children attend Norwayne Middle and Northwest Elementary, said he "emphatically supports the facilities plan."

"A tremendous amount of time and effort have gone into developing this plan. The needs of the schools have been studied exhaustively," he said. "I think now is the time for action."

Taylor suggested the matter be put to a vote.

"Yes, we may start getting some lottery money from the state, but I don't think it will be soon enough to get the money that we need," he said. "Put it on the ballot and let the people decide. I think it's a critical issue for Wayne County and for everyone who lives in this county."

He said some may question the necessity of a bond referendum, but should look no further than neighboring counties.

"On occasion, we may be guilty of saying, 'What's the least we can (get by with)?' I think our children deserve better than the least," he said. "Our children are going to compete with the children in Wake County for the best colleges and the best jobs. We need to equip our children with the best schools."

Kornegay said the Rosewood residents did not complain a whole lot because they have a history with the school board, so he stands behind them 100 percent.

"We'll get by. We know you will look after us. You always have in the past," he said. "We appreciate everything you have done for us in the past 15 to 20 years."

Kornegay said it was also good to see the commissioners involved, but noted that he wanted to see more dialogue and "to see things get done."

"We're going to support that bond issue," he said. "We didn't vote county commissioners to educate our children. Quit micromanaging the school board, let them do their job."

As a parent, he said he is tired of hearing "a small minority of people who think they have more influence than we do." If all the voters got together, Kornegay said he believed their strength would be evident.

"We have got a great school system ... based on community schools," he said. "Let's quit the bickering back and forth."

He concluded his remarks with messages to each of the boards represented on the panel.

He told the school board, "We know the battles you have put up with. We know the names you have been called. We're behind you 100 percent."

To the commissioners, he said, "Let's quit the bickering. Let's quit the infighting, the petty politics. Let's roll up our sleeves ... get through the Evergreen stuff, get it done and get some schools built."

The final facilities meeting will be Oct. 9 at Eastern Wayne High School.