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Let’s get our priorities in order
SoVaNow.com / September 04, 2013
The Mecklenburg Sun printed a picture of old desks piled outside the bus shop last week. A board member brought this up at the school board meeting demanding accountability and responsibility. The short answer is that we replaced desks with tables in many classrooms to provide a learning environment in which students can easily collaborate together and work as a team to critically think and solve problems. This is the environment that exists in many of our 21st century workplaces.
The desks we chose to save for possible spares were stored inside at the maintenance shop. The remaining desks that we chose to auction did not fit in storage. Auctions usually take about three weeks to advertise and conduct.
I think sometimes we get our priorities mixed up. I am more concerned about our children’s learning environment each and every day versus the environment that some old desks are sitting in for three weeks prior to being auctioned. We also reported at the school board meeting that the Office of Civil Rights has found major concerns with both high schools and has requested a plan of action to fix concerns about accessibility for the disabled. Instead of fixing these concerns, a board member suggests challenging OCR and investigating further to see if we are the only school system the OCR is going after. Our priority should be in providing the proper environment. We are doing what we can, in this regard, while attempting to keep the costs to MCPS at a minimum.
We have major facility concerns that were first brought to the county’s attention in a report titled “Mecklenburg County Public Schools Task Force on School Facilities” dated September 19, 1994. This report was prepared by a volunteer group of over 80 of our County citizens who worked countless hours to evaluate existing conditions and recommend needed changes. Unfortunately 19 years later, very few of the larger facility items recommended in this report have been completed.
Before I discuss the report further, I do want to note that the Board of Supervisors has recently supported the new additions that are currently being built at Chase City, Clarksville, and La Crosse. In addition, I would like to state that I am pleased that Glenn Barbour, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and Robert Puryear, Chairman of the School Board, have appointed a committee to work collaboratively on education. This Education Committee is a step in the right direction to begin a much-needed positive line of communication between both boards to solve the school facility needs of this county.
Under the elementary school facility section of the report, the conclusion was that all elementary schools are structurally sound, there was a need for effective maintenance, and there needed to be considerations for additional space where necessary. The recent addition of the gyms and the additions that will replace the trailers meet the recommendations outlined in the report that was created in 1994.
For facilities, the committee recommended the following action:
Build one High School to serve all of Mecklenburg County.
Move the two Middle Schools into the existing High School facilities. Renovate the existing high school structures to meet revised curriculum needs, technology needs, and Building Code requirements. This will also allow upgrades to meet current American with Disabilities Act codes.
Close several elementary schools such as South Hill Elementary School, South Hill Primary, Buckhorn Elementary and/or Boydton Elementary School. Reuse Park View Middle School for an elementary facility. Renovate and add on to the remaining elementary schools so that they meet current Building Codes and curriculum needs.
Relocate the existing School Board Administration offices and the accompanying support services offices.
Employ an Architectural/Engineering firm with specific educational experience to work with the Administrative Staff, Teachers, Parents and Students to assess the existing facilities, making specific recommendations for the Short Term / Long term Plan.
The final recommendation from the committee was: The Mecklenburg County School Board and the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors begin IMMEDIATE action based on this report. The rationale stated was that the longer we wait, the further our children fall behind their local and global competition. The longer we wait, the further our facilities fall into disrepair. The longer we wait, the more industrial and economic development opportunities we will miss. The longer we wait, the more it will cost.
This committee was made up of over 80 citizens serving on different committees and they did a very thorough job. The conclusions are clear. This has been studied to death with the same conclusion time and time again. The School Board has clearly voted on a consolidated high school. The next step is to employ an Architectural/Engineering firm as stated in the report from 1994 and was recently requested by the current School Board.
I am hopeful that the education committee members from both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board can sit down and discuss the importance of taking the next step toward solving what was so clearly outlined back in 1994.
Let’s look at the environment our children are in each day with critical care and ask the question, “How well are the children?”