BOE response on commission/Grantham school
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 30, 2013 1:50 AM
School board officials disagree with the comments made by the Wayne County Commission concerning a new school in Grantham.
A K-8 school in Grantham is not what the Wayne County school board or that community wants, Board of Education Chairman John Grantham said.
Earlier in the month, the school board had requested the county Board of Commissioners consider funding 50 percent of the district's next three projects -- including the central attendance area and construction of classrooms at Charles B. Aycock High and Spring Creek Elementary schools -- and pursue a loan option to build a new Grantham Middle School.
The objective was to secure shared funding, and since the school board does not have borrowing authority, it is reliant on the commissioners to borrow money on the district's behalf toward building a new school and then to make payments.
Any suggestions made since by the county commissioners to build a new school for grades K-8 to replace the existing one are short-sighted, Grantham said.
"We appreciate their suggestion of a K-8 school, but we have thought about it, given it a lot of consideration and decided to go with the 5-8 and the K-4 instead," he said. "No. 1, it's 900 to 950 just to be at capacity when you open it up. So if you did any growing at all, you would be immediately put into mobile classrooms.
"Why would we want to build a really large school and then have to add mobile classrooms after we open it up?"
Grantham maintains that the school board's concept is a solid one and has been supported by residents of that community. To suggest that suddenly the public prefers a K-8 school is wrong, he said.
"My understanding is that's not what the people want," he said. "They want a 5-8 and on a new campus and they want to have a K-4 at the old campus. That would allow us to carry on the old building and still have room to put in a pre-K if we want to (at the K-4 site)."
At the outset, Grantham said the commission's suggestion presents some glaring challenges.
"It's too big of a school," he said. "Larger schools are not the way to go. Smaller schools are better -- 400 to 600 (capacity) is better. ...
"If we go with the K-4 on the existing campus, a 5-8 on the new campus, we would have room to grow at both schools. We would have the right-sized schools."
Also, he added, the commission's recommendation could potentially delay efforts to build a middle school in the Spring Creek area.
As both a long-time resident and representative of the Grantham community, the board chairman said he believes he is "in tune with the people out there" and noted that the idea of providing a new school for that area is long overdue.
"This has been going on over 20 years now," he said. He also noted that the original building was constructed about 1920.
There has been newer construction since then, he said. Classrooms were built in 2002 that are currently being used by students in grades 6-8. That is another reason to consider keeping the existing site in addition to building a new school.
The bottom line is that the commissioners have overstepped their bounds, Grantham said.
"I don't think they should be the ones deciding," he said. "I think the community and the school board should be the ones deciding.
"The people in Grantham and the Grantham principal are adamantly opposed to having a K-8 school on the same campus. If you put it to the people the way that I'm hearing it was addressed by several county commissioners, those people in the community (heard), either you go with a K-8 or you don't go with anything. When you put it that way, people would be inclined to go K-8."
Calls to Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent, were not returned. Ken Derksen, public information officer for the district, said Thursday that the superintendent has been out of town this week and "didn't know enough about this to make a comment."