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Buckhorn takes a dive

South Boston News
Unused furniture and equipment piled up in the cafeteria of the former Buckhorn Elementary School.
SoVaNow.com / January 16, 2013
Closed since 2010, the old Buckhorn Elementary School has undergone a marked decline —with a partially collapsed roof, standing water inside the building, and furnishings and other items strewn about the interior.

Supervisor Bill Blalock, who represents the Buckhorn district, voiced concerns about the state of the shuttered school at a Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday and demanded a response by school officials. “I want answers,” he said.

After closing at the end of the 2010 school year as a cost-saving measure, Buckhorn Elementary has been used for storage of various items, including extra desks, white boards, old textbooks and teaching supplies. More recently, the old school has housed cleaning equipment and supplies used by the schools’ janitorial service company, Service Solutions.

Blalock complained about the haphazard way in which the desks and other unused school supplies were “thrown into the building, that the doors were not secure, and the roof had collapsed and there was standing water in at least four or five places inside the building.”

Fellow supervisor David Brankley, who recently toured the facility with La Crosse supervisor Dan Tanner, concurred with Blalock’s description and called the state of the building “very disturbing.”

Water is “still dripping from the ceiling,” Brankley said, and he voiced the fear that additional rain would bring more damage to the already-deteriorated ceiling.

More water seeping in will damage equipment and supplies, Brankley added, and the county does not need to have to replace or repair the items. Brankley also questioned the logic of allowing a private contractor to store supplies in the building.

Nan Alga, school personnel head who attended the supervisors’ meeting on behalf of the county division, assured Blalock that “we want to be good stewards of our facilities,” and she pledged to relay his concerns to Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Thornton.

Interviewed this week about the matter, Thornton said Service Solutions “needs a space to store supplies for easy access” as part of its contract to clean Mecklenburg County public schools. “Buckhorn gives them a convenient location on the east end of the county,” said Thornton.

Asked about the condition of Buckhorn, Thornton said, “I went to Buckhorn this morning [Tuesday, January 15] with the maintenance staff. They will be cleaning all rooms and removing broken items and any leftover items. They will be moving all usable equipment to specific rooms for inventory purposes. All doors will be locked down. The front entrance will be the only one used.”

He also said the ceiling leak was not large and that the maintenance staff would repair it.

As to another ongoing complaint by Blalock — concerning the condition of the grounds surrounding the school — Thornton said, “The grounds were bush hogged and will be cut closely and trimmed with all bushes and trees cut back.” Going forward, the maintenance staff “will maintain the outside grounds in a regular rotation during the year,” he said.

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