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Speakers at Carroll hearing support Phase III school plans

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By Brian Funk, Editor

All speakers at a June 14 public hearing with the Carroll Board of Supervisors supported moving ahead with Phase III renovations instead of building new schools.
Chip Neely said he supported the plans for Phase III because the alternative is too costly. “In talking with the community as a minister, the economic stress of new construction is not feasible.”
Donnie Morgan, who has three children in the county school system, said he's in favor of Phase III “if it's done right. I'm not for frills, like at the elementary schools.”
He said those opposing school renovations cite the bad economy, “but that when you have low construction costs. You don't want to wait for a good economy.”
The other thing Morgan hears in the community is that renovation is “just putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” as opposed to new construction addressing bigger issues.
“But if we cannot get what we need [with new schools], I'd rather have a Band-Aid than nothing at all.”
Aaron Raffeinner, who graduated from CCHS just a couple of weeks ago, said he was part of the band program since seventh grade. He said the school system “had the crazy idea” to bring ninth graders into an already cramped band room, making matters worse.
“Imagine a normal-size math classroom, double it in size and then add four times as many students and give each one a musical instrument,” he said, illustrating the problem.
Dale Ross said the band program is growing and there are 91 students coming into the program this fall. Much of the band room is used for equipment storage.
Vickie Ross agreed with her husband about the band situation. “We need some more space. It's really crammed and packed.”
She said CCHS has a wonderful band that competes with schools that are more financially fortunate. “Some schools show up to competitions with a tractor trailer full instruments and equipment. We show up with a small van and parents' cars.
“But it's amazing what they can do with what they have.”
Randy Caudill said he felt Woodlawn School “has fulfilled its purpose” and noted there have been no major renovations to CCHS since it opened in 1973.
Now is the time to build, because “building materials costs are low at this time.”
He felt local businesses could prosper if the school system bought building materials from them “and it might even create a few new jobs during construction.”
Krista Neely agreed. “With interest rates what they are, now is the time to move on this issue.”
Woodlawn School needs to be retired, she said, adding that she was “shocked” to see the conditions there. “We need to have a middle school and high school that our children deserve.”
She felt Carroll students should have a modern facility to prepare them to go into fields like medicine, which offer secure jobs and good pay.
“We have exceptional children in Carroll County, and they don't deserve substandard facilities,” said Keith Grubb.
He urged supervisors not to forget about physical education and athletics in their facilities planning, and suggested the county take advantage of students taking building trades classes when doing the renovations.
Olen Gallimore said he appreciated the school system not moving ahead with plans for new schools. He asked that, when adding 9th grade classrooms to CCHS, the building should be attached to the main school.
(County Administrator Gary Larrowe assured him the plans did just that.)
Gallimore also asked that the renovation plans at the high school include a way to better accommodate parents who drop off students.
Margaret Gardner Leggett said schools are keys to economic development, and older schools need to be replaced with state-of-the-art facilities. “As much as it pains me to say, Woodlawn has to go.”
Sherry Burnette agreed that it was time for Woodlawn to close. One of her children “spent an entire year at Woodlawn in a windowless room” with no heat or air conditioning.
She said she'd like to see her younger son “get the benefits of a 21st Century education.”
Connie Smith detailed the numerous health and safety problems faced by her children at Woodlawn, ranging from the danger of fire on a floor with no windows to a septic tank that backed up into the cafeteria and sinus infections that cause her concern about the ventilation system.
Gerald Goad pushed for the renovation of CCHS to include improvements to the auditorium, the area of the school most used by the community for concerts, graduation, drama productions, church events and government meetings.
Besides the torn and stained chair upholstery, torn carpeting, leaks and insufficient lighting, Goad said the auditorium is not handicapped accessible.
He also called for improvements to the rest rooms in the field house/press box on the athletic field, which he called the worst he's seen.
CCHS is preparing to host a marching band competition, and “there's already talk of renting portable toilets because they're ashamed of what's there.”
CCHS alumnus Clark Reece said big projects like this “are easy to put off, but let's find a way to get the job done.”
Charlene Guynn said a recent water leak that caused damage at CCHS is “a sign that something needs to be done” to fix the school.
“If we have the facilities for our students and teachers, there's nothing they can't accomplish.”
John Carpenter said the county should look at schools as economic development tools. “We're always asking companies to come in here and invest money. This is a case of investing in ourselves... This says to the world that, in this economy, here's a little county that is investing in its future.”