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Mecklenburg trustees go forward with architect for new school

SoVaNow.com / January 24, 2018
The Mecklenburg County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with hiring an architect to design the county’s new high school/middle school complex.

Following the vote, taken at the end of the board’s Jan. 16 monthly meeting, trustee Rob Campbell observed that “tonight was the first night of a unanimous vote as it relates to schools.”

The hiring of an architect had previously been blocked by a five-member majority consisting of Campbell, board chair Brent Richey and vice chair Wanda Bailey, and South Hill-area members Gavin Honeycutt and Lindell Palmer.

While the school board and board of supervisors have yet to formally agree on a site for the consolidated campus, Tuesday’s vote signaled that a new tone could enter the discussion with the school board’s willingness to move forward on the planning and design phase.

None of the trustees offered an explanation for the change of heart. However, Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols prefaced the vote with comments reminding trustees of the conditions that students at Park View Middle School are laboring under in the winter months. PVMS students are on a “modified schedule” while repairs are being made to the heating system in the annex building where classes are held for sixth grade students. For now, sixth graders must share classroom space in an “already overcrowded” main building with seventh and eighth graders, Nichols pointed out.

He said it was “a constant battle” to maintain the outdated high school and middle school buildings at Park View and Bluestone.

Angela Brooks, a parent with two children currently enrolled in county schools, also shared her concerns about the conditions of the existing buildings and the lack of heat in classrooms at both Park View High and Middle — a state of affairs she said has existed since 2002. She implored trustees to resolve these problems while also moving forward on plans for a new school.

In the past, members in the majority argued against hiring an architect and starting the design process until after a new school site was selected. Neither the school board nor supervisors have yet voted to approve a particular site, despite the announcement by supervisors that they have taken out options on nearly 175 acres at the corner of U.S. 58 and Wooden Bridge Road in Baskerville, across from Route 4.

Richey said that while it may appear that trustees are “moving at a snail’s pace,” progress is being made toward Mecklenburg County building new secondary school facilities for students in grades six-12.

In remarks during the meeting, Campbell took fellow trustee Dora Garner to task for comments she made on social media, implying that he had something to do with the board of supervisors’ decision to option the Baskerville property, which lies in ED-6, represented by Campbell.

The site is owned by William S. Wilkinson and Jeremy, Adrienne, Calvin and Judy Seaman. After receiving assurances from fellow trustee Glenn Edwards that no member of the school board had anything to do with the options taken on the Baskerville property, Campbell told Garner to “get her facts straight.”

The Joint Education Committee, consisting of supervisors and school trustees and co-chaired by Edwards, is the body overseeing the site selection for the new school complex.

Campbell also asked for clarification of the school board’s social media policy, implying that Garner’s comments were an abuse of that policy. Garner offered no comment in response.

Before Campbell spoke, Honeycutt asked his fellow trustees to put aside their divisiveness and to move forward in a positive manner. He applauded Tuesday night’s vote, calling it a “fresh start for Mecklenburg public schools.”

In other business, Richey and Bailey were re-elected as chair and vice chair and Honeycutt was re-elected as its parliamentarian.

Trustees also approved a school calendar for the 2018-19 school year that has the first day of classes on Aug. 9 and ending May 22, 2019. Graduation ceremonies will take place May 25, 2019. Director of Personnel Nan Alga said a majority of the teachers favored this calendar as opposed to a second option which had school starting on Aug. 13.

During a discussion of classes for the 2018-19 school year, Dale Sturdifen asked if “kids from each school would have to commute back and forth between the two schools” for certain classes. Currently, high school students wishing to participate in programs such as automotive studies or TEALS computer programing must travel to the school — Bluestone or Park View — where those classes are offered.

Sturdifen was told by Joan Hite, secondary director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Data Analysis, that the need to travel “is a possibility.” Nichols acknowledged that transporting students between the two schools cuts into their classroom time, but “we cannot offer all classes at both campuses. Transportation is always a problem.” He explained that the administration was studying ways to diminish the time lost for learning because of these transportation issues.

CTE director Gary Cifers reminded everyone that February is CTE Month. Students at both Park View and Bluestone will mark the event by hosting an expo of their work. Feb. 7 is the date for the expo for Bluestone students. It will be held at the Bluestone High School library between 4:15-6:30 p.m. The Park View expo will take place the following day, Feb. 8. It will also take place between 4:15-6:30 p.m. at the Park View High School library.

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