By SHANNON WATKINS
After long months of consideration and debate, the Pulaski County School Board voted to consolidate middle schools in a brief segment of Thursday night’s meeting.
The decision was recommended by staff based on comments from several public hearings and multiple studies, including the building future study from 2002-2003 and the recent OWPR architectural study, presented at a public hearing in June.
It was also recommended the board approve the renovation of Dublin Elementary, and that staff be authorized to send the Board of Supervisors a letter requesting that site selection and design work on the schools begin immediately.
School Board Chairman Mike Barbour mentioned there would be a meeting next Thursday with the joint services oversight board and the joint board meeting with the Board of Supervisors the following Monday.
After no comments were forthcoming from other board members, Barbour said that the middle school issue should have been addressed in the 1970s and was long overdue. He said that the middle schools were “inadequate for twenty-first century learning,” and that while the most important factor in education was good teachers, the quality of the school buildings also had an influence.
“I’m certainly going to support the recommendation made by the administration,” Barbour said. While he granted that there were differing opinions on the matter, he added that he was doing what he felt would best serve the needs of Pulaski County students.
“I think that frankly our middle school students, as well as their teachers and staff, have made do with inadequate buildings far too long. I think the existing buildings are far beyond the point where they can be effectively renovated, I think that every middle school student in Pulaski County deserves to have the same quality facility, I think that every middle school student in the county deserves a facility as good as any other facility in the state. I realize there’s going to be challenges, particularly in the area of funding a new middle school. I certainly will pledge my efforts to work with the board of supervisors to try and find their way forward with the funding. I just simply cannot accept the idea that we should do nothing … I think the time to act is now.
“I fully support the idea of consolidated middle schools, I obviously support the renovation, the sooner the better, of Dublin Elementary. We have some very high-quality elementary schools in this county, we also are asking our students at Dublin Elementary to accept a less than adequate facility, and we certainly need to undertake the renovation of that school as soon as possible. Dr. Brewster, I fully support your recommendation.”
“I agree with Mr. Barbour,” said board member Linda Hill. “I taught at Pulaski Middle School, in fact I did two ‘tours of duty’ there, and it’s tough teaching there. It really is tough. Both schools need so many updates, and there’s a very old saying in education, ‘You either make them or break them in the middle years.’ And we need to make our students outstanding students. This is what we need to do so, so I fully support it.”
“Well, I guess I’m going to be the black sheep of the bunch,” said board member Frances Viars. “There are a number of reasons that I do not support consolidation. I’m a community person, and I have talked with a lot of people in the Dublin area, and in the Pulaski area both. And I do not think that this is really going to work that well. I even talked to some of the kids in both schools. I’m sorry, but I just cannot vote in favor of consolidation.”
After no more comments were forthcoming, School Board Vice Chairman Jeff Bain announced he would be honored to move that the board accept the recommendation for consolidation of the middle schools and renovation of Dublin Elementary, saying, “It is long overdue, and I fully support the recommendation.”
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to second that motion, and also express strong support for the recommendation,” said school board member Joe Guthrie.
The motion passed with only Viars voting against consolidation.