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‘A SICKLY BUILT SCHOOL’

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Top, retired English and drama teacher Becky Donner on the HCHS auditorium stage in 2018. She and Markeia Hamlett, above, urged trustees to support construction of a new high school to replace the current building.
SoVaNow.com / July 15, 2021


As they plot their next moves on modernizing outdated county schools, the Halifax County School Board heard impassioned pleas from two speakers who urged demolishing Halifax County High School and starting over.

Retired HCHS teacher Becky Donner and Markeia Hamlett, a HCHS parent, described the deplorable condition of the building, especially the unhealthy environment inside. Mold that has persisted for years despite cleanup efforts makes life difficult for people who have breathing issues, the speakers said.

“After spending healthy summers at home, many teachers would return to school and immediately have allergy issues. I was not the only one by far — there is something wrong with that building,” said Donner, who taught English and drama at Halifax County High School before retiring.

Donner added that the safety of students is put in jeopardy by the narrow and remote hallways that run throughout the building, creating too many routes and making it impossible to keep an eye on all the students.

“There are many hiding places in that building than one would realize,” said Donner.

When she was teaching, Donner said, students would relate stories of others having sex in blind spots of the building, or using the bathroom openly in hidden stairwells.

Another problem, she said, is the condition of the auditorium with its mold and accessibility issues. The auditorium roof would leak every time it rained, leaving the carpet and upholstery soaked, and sometimes there would be a foot of standing water in the orchestra pit. School administrators at the time the building was constructed chose to install a less expensive lighting system in the auditorium, a system that quickly grew outdated but remains in use today.

“You would be hard pressed to find any other high school in Virginia that has any lighting system as outdated as ours,” said Donner.

“Everything in the auditorium is dirty from age, [it’s] moldy and sickly and there is no blaming the custodial staff. This is just what time does to an already sickly built building,” said Donner.

“Once you have lived in that building as many of us have, you would realize how sickly it is and how unfriendly to keep an eye on the student population.”

Hamlett also addressed the School Board at Monday night's at the middle school. Hamlett, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, traveled to Richmond two years ago to speak to the General Assembly in support of Halifax County’s 1-cent sale tax to build a new high school. Hamlett stressed that the current facility is not accessible, and agreed with Donner that there are problems inside the building that make breathing difficult for some.

“I went to General Assembly and I would gladly go again, but I cannot see them doing anything else for us if we don’t support what they have already approved. The county already voted for it — the need is there,” she said.

Hamlett said building a new school will encourage new businesses and people to come to Halifax County. She said she could see why someone would not want to come here if it meant enrolling her student at the current HCHS facility. By refusing to replace a building that causes breathing issues, Halifax is making it difficult to keep teachers at the high school, especially those with respiratory problems, she said.

“I have seen students have allergy issues just from coming into the building,” said Hamlett.

Most parts of the high school are not compliant with the American Disabilities Act for handicap access.

“[Mobility-impaired individuals] cannot get on the high school stage, it is hard to get around the school, and there is only one restroom. The need is there. There might be a teacher who is disabled and wants to come here” to work, but the teacher’s parking lot is not ADA-compliant, either.

“It is time, make the move, build the school, do the thing for Halifax that we all know that we need to do to take care of our students,” Hamlett pleaded.

“Please, for the love of all of our students and those who work in the system, build a new building. All of our students will benefit from that, people’s lives depend on it. I truly care about what is best for Halifax County,” said Donner.

Trustees are expected to soon hold a workshop to discuss the modernization of school facilities, including the high school and the county’s older elementary buildings.

The school board and Halifax County Board of Supervisors also have formed a joint education committee to review proposals for modernizing county schools, and the six-person committee heard last week from representatives with Branch Builds and RRMM Architects, the Roanoke-based companies that renovated the middle school, on options for HCHS and all of the elementary schools, save for the two newest facilities, Cluster Springs and South Boston elementaries.

Trustees took no action on the matter Monday.



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Comments

We don't need a new school. My kids went there and I worked there for a few years. It might need some up grades but not 136 million worth. It's time for citizens that are sick of wasting tax money need to run for office!

Comments

the building is restorable. School actual cost will be $200 million in a time that education is changing. School board stuck on buggy whips while education is going more virtual instruction but Halifax won't do anything about lack of broadband. We could save quite a bit on teachers, buses and other expenses by attending Virtual Virginia- Va online course at a cost of only $4,000 per student per year. quite a big savings over lazy teachers continuing to promote the Covid plandemic fears.

Comments

Simple solution. The student population is down to very low numbers. Go back to what worked years ago. Elementary school for grades 1 - 7 and high school for grades 8 - 12. Close high school and make middle school the high school. It is in great shape and has been well maintained since it was built in the 50's.

Comments

Simple solution is right on. To simple for these idiots.

Comments

THE HCSH SCHOOL WILL ALWAYS , TIL THE END OF TIME HAVE MAJOR ISSUES. I REMEMBER WHEN IT WAS BUILT . THE SITE PREP COMPANY COULD NOT PACK THE SOIL TO THE NECESSARY DENSITY. THE REASON HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE SAME . IT WAS BUILT ON A LOWLAND SWAMPY AREA. EVEN THE HUMIDITY CONTINUES TO COLLECT IN THIS LOWLAND BOWL CAUSING MOLD. THATS WHY THERES MOLD ALL OVER . THATS WHY THE BUILDING HAS MAJOR STRUCTURAL CRACKS . THATS WHY THE ENTIRE BUILDING NEEDS TO BE RECONSTRUCTED AT A ENTIRELY DIFFERENT LOCATION. AMERICA USE TO BUILD STRUCTURES THAT LAST OVER A CENTURY. BUT NOW , WITH SO MANY PAYOFFS AND RIPOFFS , THEY DONT LAST 30 YEARS. HCSH IS A PRIME EXAMPLE. TAKE A LOOK AT THE COLLASPED CONDO IN MIAMI . SAME PRICIPLES IGNORED , MANY DIED. BUT YET IT CONTINUES.


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