"Do you see the steam coming out of my ears?" Wayne County Commissioner Joe Daughtery said.
"I just find it hard to imagine county taxpayers spending $10 million to build new classrooms when classrooms are available," Daughtery said. "I'm sorry, I have a problem with that."
Daughtery, who is known for his insistence that the board of education maximize use of existing classroom space instead of building new ones, made his comments Wednesday as commissioners and school board members toured several county schools.
Daughtery also has been vocal about opening up classroom space by moving pre-K classes into other facilities.
The tour included stops at Goldsboro High School, Wayne Academy (the old Goldsboro Middle School), School Street School, Brogden Primary School at Dudley, Rosewood Middle School and Fremont STARS Elementary School in Fremont.
"We are in a real squeeze to provide about 40 some odd classrooms, and we have an elementary school here where there are classrooms right over here that we are using for pre-K," Daughtery said while sitting in a room at School Street School.
Partnership for Children currently leases space for six pre-K classrooms at the school, Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Dunsmore said.
Dunsmore said the school system is working to free up classroom space in other schools by finding other locations for pre-K classes.
"I understand that they are paying for it, but this is a facility of Wayne County Public Schools," Daughtery said. "We need classrooms mandated by the General Assembly, and it is kind of hard for me as a commissioner to recognize that I have got to build new classrooms when we have classrooms over here that we are leasing out."
It comes down to transportation -- bussing, Dunsmore said.
"We would have to bus students," he said.
Daughtery asked Dunsmore to explain his comment.
"Right now the expansion of North Drive and Carver Heigths (schools) can handle the expansion of students," Dunsmore said. "When we open Meadow Lane, we are going to be able to shift those attendance lines, we're going to able to absorb all of that.
"Where we are overcrowded, we are going to have to bus students (to other schools)."
A new housing development with 137 homes is planned in the Fremont area, school board member Jennifer Strickland said.
"There is no room up there, there's no classrooms available," Strickland said. "But there is space here, but the only way to get them here is to bus."
Daugherty suggested adjusting school district lines "a bit" so that those students could attend School Street School.
Strickland said she understands Daughtery's concerns, but that the schools are having to work with a shift in the county's demographics.
"You are going to have to find a way to effectively use the facilities that you have," Daughtery said.
Strickland told Daughtery that she did not disagree with him in theory.
"There has got to be a way to adjust the lines to maximize the use of the facilities that we have," Daughtery said. ""Every school district faces the same problem, and that is what they do on an annual basis almost."
Yet it has almost been 30 years since Wayne County has even looked at tweaking even one line, he said.
"That is the way that I see it," school board member Arnold Flowers said.
School board member Chris West told Daughtery that there are cases before the U.S. Supreme Court involving bussing students across district lines.
Daughtery said he was not suggesting that, but rather to adjust district lines.
Daughtery said he was amazed at the shape that the Wayne Academy building is in -- it is in better shape than a lot of other schools in the county.
During a tour of that building Dunsmore said that the second floor, which is now being used for office space, its being converted back to classrooms.
Part of the facility issue is that schools age and require more attention, and that gets more and more expensive, Dunsmore said.
Despite commissioners' concerns, it was still important for them to see the school system's facility needs first hand, school board Chairman Pat Burden said.
She said she hopes that once those needs have been seen that commissioners will work with the school board on a timeline and in setting priorities to get some of the work done.
"Then hopefully they will ask questions and get a better understanding of what is taking place and what the needs are -- not just brick and mortar, but inside the building, inside the classroom," she said.
That includes security concerns, especially at older schools that have numerous doors from the outside opening up into classrooms, she said.
In years past, classrooms with doors to the outside were premiere schools, but in today's society it is no long the case because it is a safety issue, she said.
"Security is a priority," Burden said. "The priorities will depend on which schools that you are looking at."
Burden said she thinks the school board is addressing commissioners' concerns about making maximum use of existing classroom space.
The school board also needs to look at district lines, she said.
"I think part of our problem now, particularly at elementary and middle schools is that parents used the transfer policy to have their children attend schools outside of their domicile area," she said.
That has contributed to some schools being overcrowded while others are under capacity, she said.
Currently, that is not a problem on the high school level, she said.
For now, the school board has placed a moratorium on transfers, but the policy still needs to be looked at as well as redrawing district lines, Burden said.
She said she hopes the next step will be to look at plans on both sides for the budget coming up for fiscal year 2018-19.
"I do think that we need to do more tours and address other schools because each may have its own specific needs," she said.
Tours should be held periodically so that commissioners can see what the school system has been able to accomplish through their support, as well as what any additional needs might be, she said.
"I think the board of commissioners wanted to have a good idea of what the needs were as we move forward," Wayne County Manager Craig Honeycutt said. "It is important for us to have a clear understanding about what the capacities are so that we can help solve the classroom size moving forward."
Honeycutt said he thinks a second tour will be scheduled for a later date since all the schools commissioners wanted to see could not be handled in just one tour.
"There has been change within the school system," he said. "There has been change within the number of capacity issues so I think Commissioner Daughtery made a great point -- how do you maximize existing capacity before we begin looking at building new classrooms."
"Do you see the steam coming out of my ears? ... I just find it hard to imagine county taxpayers spending $10 million to build new classrooms when classrooms are available. I'm sorry, I have a problem with that."
Wayne County Commissioner Joe Daughtery