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New ideas offered at community meeting

By NEESEY PAYNE

neesey@southwesttimes.com

 

At Tuesday’s night’s community meeting hosted by Pulaski County Public Schools, the public had an opportunity to voice their opinions concerning the schools study, which is being carried out by OWPR Architects and Engineering. J.D. Price, vice president of OWPR, heard new ideas concerning athletics, academics and school design.

A major idea discussed was not only having a larger auditorium at both the middle and elementary school levels, but a flexible space in addition that could be divided into smaller spaces so not only could multiple classrooms have the opportunity to work together, but the community could use it for various programs and projects, as well.

Community members also said they would like to have a large auxiliary gym that could accommodate multiple practices and games. One parent commented that it would be nice for the middle schools to be able to host a wrestling tournament. She said a large auxiliary gym would allow that to happen so that the wrestling team didn’t have to host their tournaments at the high school.

Expansion of athletic programs was a widely accepted idea. Incorporating cross country, indoor track, lacrosse, indoor and outdoor soccer, tennis and swimming were all suggestions for additions to sporting activities offered.  Parents also said it would be nice for the middle schools to have space for football fields. With the suggestions of many high-risk sports, one community member said it would be nice to have an athletic trainer on site at sporting events. Another parent said many spend long hours at the schools and it would be nice to have a track, much like the one at Randolph Park, so that parents can watch their kids while enjoying a little exercise.

Price asked community members if they liked the idea of having outdoor restrooms and concession stands. There was unanimous agreement.

Having adequate space for band students was a concern. One community member said there is little space at the middle schools to house all the instruments. She also said in considering the design of an auditorium, the acoustics of the room should be taken into account for band concerts and plays. Another parent said she would like to see band started at the elementary school level.

Another thing mentioned was having larger cafeteria and kitchen spaces, as well as a larger library at Dublin Elementary School. One community member said it would be nice to have a room with an extra refrigerator and stove for use during after school activities.

One parent expressed that he didn’t believe learning conditions were fair to students. “I’ve gone into parent/teacher conferences and have come out sweating, feeling like I lost 10 pounds. If I’m that miserable I can only imagine how they feel every day,” he said.

Price assured everyone that no matter if the decision is to rebuild or renovate those things would be taken care of. “In terms of the environment there will be air conditioning, proper ventilation, new windows, and plenty of data capabilities.”

A teacher said she would like to see more collaborative learning spaces in classrooms so that non-traditional teaching styles could be integrated into the classroom. Another said she would like to see areas to accommodate special education students. Small rooms for one-on-one and group testing was a popular idea, as well.

One person said that technology should be a major part of the schools. Another suggested the schools use smart technology throughout the building. Community members were open to the suggestion of having a room that could charge iPads.

Price said he has always been impressed with the “forward thinking” of Pulaski County Public Schools. He said out of all the clients he has worked with, Pulaski County uses the most technology in its school system.

Just as in Monday night’s meeting at Riverlawn Elementary School, community members expressed they would like to have trailers and vocational buildings closer to the schools. Members of the public  also said they would like to see more parking and separate areas for buses and parent pickup.

Price asked if including greenhouses would be something they would like to see. Many agreed. One parent said an agriculture teacher could be hired so that students could prepare for agriculture courses at the high school.

As far as design of the schools, natural lighting was widely accepted. Some people said the schools should look modern, other said they should incorporate both modern and traditional styles. Community members said the schools should be “appealing, “warm and inviting,” and “ a place for children and the community.”

The community meeting scheduled to take place tonight at Snowville Elementary School has been postponed to a later date due to the cancelation of schools and weather-related issues.

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