01/14/07 — Team: Bulldoze some schools, rebuild

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Team: Bulldoze some schools, rebuild

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 14, 2007 10:52 AM

Some of the county's schools should just be bulldozed and rebuilt elsewhere, suggested a committee assessing the school system's needs.

At a three-hour meeting Thursday afternoon, the facilities and real estate focus committee laid out some of their recommendations for the county based on visits to the 31 public schools in recent weeks. One of three committees formed by the Master Facility Plan Team, their findings paralleled those of the education committee, which met twice last month.

Members suggested demolition of Eastern Wayne and Norwayne middle schools, with Rosewood Middle also mentioned as a possibility. All three are older schools, with location and traffic pattern concerns also contributing factors for Eastern Wayne and Rosewood.

At Eastern Wayne, committee member David Perry said the three buildings in front are beyond renovating. He suggested the possibility of relocating the school onto the Greenwood Middle School site if the school system doesn't redistrict, or liquidate some of the property.

"This is easy -- bulldoze the whole thing, start over," committee member Wes Seegars said. "That school, everything about that school, it's chopped up. There's nowhere for the water to go. The road ditches don't even exist."

Congestion is another issue, he said.

"I was over there a little before 7 and watched. It looked like Wal-Mart parking lot the day before Christmas," he said. "If they had a fire alarm in that station across the street, that would have been a mess."

Seegars also mentioned leveling some of the older buildings at Norwayne or Eastern Wayne High School.

"(Norwayne's) built in a hole. In that part of the county, I would turn it over to the volunteer fire department ... or it might be a nice community center," he said.

While Eastern Wayne High is a "great school," Seegars said he would clean up the eastern side of the campus.

"The old gym, I would throw that ball to (principal Gene Byrd) and his staff. If you need that facility, I would keep it, but if he said he didn't need it, I would bulldoze that, too."

The theme continued when Rosewood Middle was mentioned.

"This is one of those issues that says it needs to be bulldozed," committee member Ven Faulk said. He said the school's plumbing is old; the cafeteria is small; there is no air conditioning in the gym; and there are security issues.

But the big dilemma is what to do as far as traffic, said Sprunt Hill, associate superintendent for auxiliary services.

"It's so close to the road. The question is for the future of the community, get their input," he said.

"It doesn't need to be on that corner. It needs to be somewhere else," Perry replied.

Locations for at least two new middle schools and one elementary school should be sought, the committee agreed.

Committee member and Realtor Judith McMillen said with the number of subdivisions anticipated in the northern end of the county and completion of such projects as the new Wal-Mart and the Clayton bypass, the county should get ready for an influx of people.

"That area is going to boom and it's going to happening two or three years," she said, suggesting the school system consider securing sites for schools. "Once those guys start building out there ... land's going to go up. Go ahead and buy now."

Ms. McMillen also expressed concern over children having to walk or eat lunch outside during inclement weather. She said she favored walkway coverings or, in the case of Goldsboro High School, a larger student commons area.

Overcrowding at schools like Charles B. Aycock High School is also a problem, she said.

"There were six or seven children in some kind of special classroom and the classroom looked like it had been a storage closet originally," she said.

"That school just seemed like it needed a lot of things -- space, media center, some educational things," she said.

Magnet schools were mentioned as one way to possibly relieve some of the overcrowding.

Seegars recommended there be one or two in the county.

"I would love to see us have a magnet school that was basically a trade school -- welding, carpentry, a myriad of trades," he said. "I suspect in the foreseeable future that we'll continue to need these trades. We need to have life skill courses in there."

Ms. McMillen proposed that while students need to have core classes, there could be a magnet school featuring a rigorous academic program and another she termed "like an earn-a-living" high school, whether or not the student continued on to college.

Overall, the existing programs in the school system met with the committee's approval. Visually, though, Southern Academy was mentioned as "probably the worst we saw" by Faulk. Conditions are bad at the alternative school in Mount Olive, he said, noting tiles coming up on the floor and deadbolt doors that could only be locked from the outside.

"Maybe it's an incentive for students to get out," he said. "They'd almost be better off in Wayne County Jail."

Despite some of the findings, the committee maintained that their perception of the school system had been changed. Several mentioned going into the process with the belief that there were a lot of problems and said they came away pleasantly surprised with how well-maintained and efficient many schools were.

"I had the perception of a lot of problems," said Perry, who was tasked with visiting some of the central attendance schools.

"Quite the contrary," he said, noting in many cases the school system is utilizing its funding well and "doing the best they can with what they have to work with."

Seegars commended the school system for its existing facilities and the job done in maintaining them. But that just makes the task at hand all the more important, he added.

"We have got one chance to do this right. We haven't had a major school evaluation like this in a long time, and it will be a long time before we do again," he said.

Seegars said he would hope the Evergreen Solutions report would be used as a guideline and not a mandate for what is done in Wayne County.

"Nobody knows this community and where we live better than the school board and those of us who live here," he said. "We know what works in our community, and I hope that's the way we'll approach this."

When it came down to dollars and cents, the committee balked at the proposed $90 million facilities plan.

"Ninety million dollars is not going to begin to do what needs to be done," Ms. McMillen said.

"If we want the people in this county to vote to increase their taxes, to give $90 million or more to the schools, we're going to have to educate the county."

She said the public needs to believe money is being spent wisely and shown "what a great job (the school system) is doing maintaining what you have with what you have to work with."

Seegars said the school officials would be wise to consider inviting business leaders and others to do what the committee had done -- take a tour of the schools.

"I think if you go through and see how these schools are so well-maintained, see the discipline and the orderliness of the schools, it will impress a lot of people," he said.

"We need more people involved. ... We have got other organizations that are working together like a hand in a glove. We do not have that situation here."