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Parking lots at Mecklenburg County schools put on hold

SoVaNow.com / November 21, 2012
The Mecklenburg County School Board is receiving $40,000 to purchase a house and land next to Chase City Elementary, but the trustees’ request for additional money to build parking lots at county elementary schools have been put on hold for now.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Thornton told trustees Monday night that the Board of Supervisors has declined to pay for the paving of parking areas at the elementary schools. The supervisors have agreed to the purchase of property adjacent to Chase City Elementary School.

Supervisors are reluctant to spend money on parking lots at elementary schools as the county prepares to embark on a major school construction drive, Thornton told trustees at their regular monthly meeting Monday night in Boydton.

Additions are set to be built at La Crosse, Chase City and Clarksville elementary to replace dilapidated classroom trailers.

The supervisors felt it was better to wait until construction was complete before authorizing a $100,000 appropriation for paving at each elementary school, said Thornton. The superintendent sought the paving funds to address safety concerns involving buses and parents dropping off or picking up their children. The newly paved areas would give each school separate parking areas for parents and buses.

Trustee Dale Sturdifen expressed frustration after hearing in a separate matter that supervisors probably are not willing to consider giving the abandoned Mecklenburg Correctional Center property to serve as the site for a consolidated county high school. Thornton said he was told the property contained a shooting range, which makes it unsuitable for a high school.

Sturdifen said he was not willing to accept the position of the supervisors and suggested that the School Board should plead its case to state Sen. Frank Ruff and Del. Tommy Wright. Trustees Sandra Tanner and Glenn Edwards said instead that the School Board should explore all possible locations for a joint high school, and stressed the need to work cooperatively with supervisors on the project.

Finally, Thornton said that despite receiving funds to purchase the elementary school property in Chase City, the seller of the property was not willing to assume the cost of an abatement study. Instead, the property would be sold “as is” — meaning Mecklenburg County would be responsible for any cost of lead or asbestos removal stemming from the demolition of the building.

Edwards asked the School Board to consider contracting out the demolition work using a contractor licensed to deal with buildings containing lead or asbestos. He received murmured approvals for the suggestion, but no vote was taken.

Robert Tucker, who oversees the energy management program for the schools, presented his analysis of the Energy Education Program implemented last year. Without producing the data he relied on to calculate his reported savings, Tucker said the program saved the school over $150,000 in energy costs over the last year.

Edwards suggested the same or greater savings could be achieved by working with Dominion Power or Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, who, at no cost, will work with larger users helping them find ways to cut their utility costs. He also suggested that lights at the schools, both inside and out, should be replaced with LED bulbs with motion detectors. Edwards claimed this change alone would result in substantial cost savings.

Tucker disagreed and expressed hesitance with spending money on new products he said were “not mass produced.” He also said his program, which is designed to change behavior, is better designed than simply spending money on new technology.

In other business, various student groups regaled trustees with their learning experiences since the beginning of school.

Brook Hatcher and Remona Tomko demonstrated the ways technology is being used in the elementary classrooms. Students from Bluestone Middle School spoke about their experiences learning to create a video game using SCRATCH software, and create a mural for the Vets-on-a-Roll Park at Island Creek. Finally, three of Mrs. Clanton’s foreign language students shared their experiences learning a second language through the Rosetta Stone program.

Sturdifen, who had pushed for a separate girls’ soccer program for the middle school, was thrilled to learn that the sport will be offered as a girls-only sport at Bluestone Middle School beginning with the spring season. “It is long overdue,” Sturdifen said. He also expressed his expectation that soon girls at Park View Middle School will have the same opportunity.

Coach Dan Powell said, “This is an opportunity to prepare girls interested in playing soccer at the high school level in order to strengthen the program.”

At the request of student liaisons Kevin Murphy and Christopher Nwaokocha, the school began a survey of students seeking ways to improve the quality of school lunches. While the number of responses pleased him, Thornton called for a more in-depth study as the school looks into outsourcing the food production services.

One company under consideration is Chartwell, a division of Compass Group the company that also owns the janitorial services company hired at the schools.

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