10/10/06 — Flooding, safety top Eastern Wayne parents' list of concerns

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Flooding, safety top Eastern Wayne parents' list of concerns

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on October 10, 2006 1:54 PM

Residents voiced their final concerns and suggestions to the Facilities Master Plan Team Monday night during the last of six community meetings designed to create dialogue about the county's school facilities needs.

More than 100 parents, citizens and school advisory council members gathered at Eastern Wayne High School to suggest how the feeder area's schools, which include Eastern Wayne High, middle and elementary schools, Greenwood Middle, Tommy's Road Elementary and Meadow Lane Elementary, could be improved.

Wayne Public Schools assistant superintendent for auxiliary services Sprunt Hill said receiving that input is vital to improving education for Wayne County students.

"It's not just about getting data. It's about what we do with that data," he said.

As part of the Wayne County Board of Education's five-year, $90 million facilities plan, the school board wants to provide Eastern Wayne Elementary with $6 million to demolish some parts of the school and add as many classrooms as possible, Hill said. The classrooms would be built within a two-story structure, which would also house new administrative offices, he added.

Another improvement in the Eastern Wayne feeder area includes new classrooms and restrooms at Greenwood Middle School. Four of the school's modular classrooms and staff restrooms would be replaced, costing about $1 million. Other schools could also receive funding for routine maintenance needs, Hill said.

Some residents told the Facilities Master Plan Team, which consists of select members from the Wayne County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners, that there is more that can be done for schools in the eastern part of Wayne County.

At Tommy's Road Elementary, students are exposed to the weather every day when they are dropped off or picked up from school, Kenneth Cooley said. Simple shelters with metal roofs could protect children and their immune systems from rain and snow, he added.

Eastern Wayne Middle School hasn't changed since Mike Smith was there as a student. Now, as an educator, he told the facilities plan team it is time to make changes.

"If it rains, the kids have to roll up their pant legs to get from class to the cafeteria," Smith said. "They shouldn't have to."

Some students choose to remove their shoes, he added.

The area between the classrooms and the cafeteria at some parts of Eastern Wayne Middle can hold as much as eight inches of water after a heavy rainfall, Wayne Board of Education member Rick Pridgen said.

Pridgen, who lives in and represents the Eastern Wayne feeder area, said an educator asked him to go to Eastern Wayne schools after a heavy rainfall if he were elected to the school board. After he was sworn into office in 2002, he went to the schools and saw children standing in water six inches deep.

Four years later, the same problems remain, Pridgen said. He added that he is hopeful those problems will be fixed as long as the school board and county commissioners continue to work together.

Parent Marilyn Roseboro expressed the same sentiment.

"I'm hopeful Wayne County will continue to strive for what's best for all children," she said.

Another issue of concern for parents and residents Monday night was the security of their children.

Tracey Sherman, an advisory council member for Greenwood Middle School, said a dirt road that students travel on to get to the school's annex building has become a major safety issue. Without paving the road or creating more traffic controls, Ms. Sherman said an accident is possible every day.

About two years ago, an Eastern Wayne Middle student brought a gun to school into Smith's classroom. Although Smith wasn't in class teaching on that day, he said the school system was fortunate that another student had the courage to tell adults that the student had brought a weapon to school.

Smith said Eastern Wayne Middle teachers have been asking for a phone system for every classroom for at least the past eight years, but the request has never been granted. If another student were to bring a gun to one of the modular classrooms, there would be no contact between those classrooms and the school's main building.

Tammy Haire, a parent who worked for several years in the security business, told the facilities plan team another way to protect to children is to install closed circuit televisions at all schools to monitor who comes in and out.

Each suggestion provided during the six community meetings will be taken into consideration as the school board and county commissioners work together to make any needed improvements to the $90 million, five-year facilities plan.

The five-year plan, which is required by state law, was drafted to assist Evergreen Solutions in completing a study on school facilities. County officials hired the consultant last year to study school facilities needs.

Wayne Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said he is hopeful the school board and county commissioners will gather information needed for the education, real estate facilities and finance committees in the next two weeks.

The three committees consist of school and county officials as well as other experts in the community. Each committee will be given responsibilities by the Facilities Master Plan Team and work to finalize the school board's five-year facilities plan and find a way to fund the projects, Taylor said.

County officials said there are many ways to fund the project including a possible bond referendum next May.

Ernest Waters, an eastern Wayne resident, said a bond referendum will raise taxes. He added that money people who live in one of the county's seven municipalities already pay county and municipal property taxes. Any increase in taxes would create an even larger burden for them.

The members of the facilities plan team will take those suggestions into consideration once they inform the education and facilities committees of their findings, Taylor said. Once those committees have gathered the necessary data, they will present that information to the finance committee to find the best way to fund the project, he added.