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Teachers, students pan HCHS’s poor condition

South Boston News / August 02, 2021
On the recent Crumbling Schools Tour, Halifax County High School administrators pointed out a host of problems with the current building, from what they said were insufficient science labs to old boilers and cracked walls.

But largely absent were teachers, students, and parents. They, too, have stories and opinions.

“It kind of feels more like a cave than a building,” said Lydia Wenzel, a rising senior, citing the lack of windows in most of her classes.

Pauline Vrbanic, who taught at the high school from 1981 to 2010, also commented on the lack of windows: “I was lucky to have a room with a window. I don’t know how people functioned without daylight.”

Even when the building was brand-new, Vrbanic remembers the lack of windows and issues with air conditioning.

“Build a building that’s healthy and functional for everyone,” she said, weighing in on the debate over whether to renovate or rebuild the high school.

Wenzel also dislikes the locker rooms, saying they smell bad. Sometimes they had brown liquid running down the walls. “It was pretty disgusting looking at that while I was changing clothes for P.E.”

Allyn Beth Motley, a government teacher who has spent time at both the high school building and the STEM center, is most concerned about security, which was also pointed out in the Crumbling Schools Tour. Many of the stair towers, she said, are hard to monitor, and they include doors that students could use to let people in and out of the building. The doors have censors, but she said that they are used so frequently it would be easy to let someone in or out unnoticed.

Tammie Saunders, a science teacher who is leaving Halifax for a Danville high school, views many of the issues of the building as related to maintenance and cleanliness. She said some students treat the building badly, and she has had to deal with that as a cheerleading coach — a position she will keep despite no longer teaching here. She said that she and the team have to pick up trash in the auxiliary gym every day before practice.

“In five years, a new building is going to look like what we have now,” said Saunders. “Whether you build a new one or renovate it, it doesn’t matter what you do unless you maintain the building.”

While leading tours, Martha Chandler, an assistant principal, addressed some of these concerns, saying that maintenance and custodian cleaning require money and personnel. Much of the problem with keeping up the building is finding money in the budget, she said.

One of the bigger problems is the school’s lack of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. Markeia Byrd-Hamlett, a mother of two high school students, lobbied at Virginia’s General Assembly for permission to hold the county’s 2019 referendum on the schools sales tax. She wants a new high school because it is not easily accessible to wheelchair users like herself and other disabled people.

“Now I have a wheelchair with a motor, so it’s much easier for me to get in, but I used to have to propel myself, and it was an uphill climb,” she said. In the school, there is only one wheelchair-accessible bathroom, which is in the lobby. In the auditorium, she has no access to the stage.

In addition, many of the sports fields, including the softball field, the tennis field, and the track, are hard for her to get to. Her daughter used to run track and made the softball team before the pandemic.

Byrd-Hamlett wants to see a decision for a new school building as soon as possible: “There is a rising cost. The longer we wait, the price goes up.”

Tell-a-Friend | Submit a Comment



Wonder how much these folks would like to donate if their personal funds to a new school. These idiots don’t understand that a building cannot teach!


Pitiful-something has to be done!! But is anybody embarrassed by this! What an indictment !! History repeating itself-same kind of negative attitude back when this school was built! Some things never change in Halifax and attitude toward education is certainly no different!!!


By Idiots...the article is centered around hos students and faculty members view the school and you just referenced both groups as idiots. So you think that the students and educators who teach the youth of Halifax County are idiots?

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