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School board votes to consolidate middle schools

By SHANNON WATKINS

shannon@southwesttimes.com

 

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.

 

32 Responses to School board votes to consolidate middle schools

  1. PMSDAD

    October 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Ok property owners, get ready to see your real estate taxes jump like never before. I expect to see the reduction of faculty and staff to compensate for some of the added debt, most likely 40% of current workforce. Also, only one team per sport now, this will result in even less children developed, and thus more losing teams. Congratulations school board, you have cast stone to our counties new debt ceiling.

  2. educatedowl

    October 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    So, after allowing the buildings to fall apart and the situation to deteriorate for decades, after shirking the costs time and time again, the answer should be two new schools? How much of a financial drain would that be?

  3. PC MOM

    October 15, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Thank God!!!!!! It is time to get our children out of them unsafe buildings! Why I understand why people do not like the idea of a consolidation, but I am sure that there was as much “hoopla” about it when it was decided to consolidate the high schools and yes it would have been great to have been able to build two separate schools; taxes would be worse. As a home owner in Pulaski, I am thrilled that the future generations of Pulaski County are going to have an proper educational environment! Several teachers at PMS are currently teaching two subjects, so with the consolidation maybe they won’t have to. I really hope that they do not continue to drag their feet and get a move on with this. The children of Pulaski County deserve this!!

    • PMSDAD

      October 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      APCMOM, I am not saying it is a bad idea to build a new school. My concern arises at the knee jerk, uneducated manner in which these decisions are made. Our local government needs to plan for these types of capital expenditures. Make a business case, start saving by including 300k in the budget that is set aside for the school, use revenue that is above expenditures and save this, and in 10 to 15 years build the school. Faculty and staff reductions will have to be part of the plan. Redundancy and synergies will have to be accounted for, and action taken. The board of supervisors must make this happen with as little impact on the one who have to bear this burden (HOME OWNERS), this means borrow (bond referendum) as little as possible, pay for it out of pocket (revenue over expenditures), do some of the work in house (county employees), reduce manpower. Do this the correct way, plan it out and make good business decisions.

      • PC MOM

        October 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm

        This is far from a knee jerk, uneducated manner in which this decision has been made. This has been a topic for many years. I am sorry but as a HOME OWNER and a parent whose child will not benefit from the new school, I am VERY happy that finally, something is going to be done for OUR children in Pulaski County! I wonder if so much was “discussed” when Riverlawn got a new elementary school? The population at that school is way lower than the population at the middle school. I say let’s go Pulaski County and Get it done!!!!

        • PMSDAD

          October 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm

          Pc mom, how would you finance this? How would you handle reductions in workforce…let me hear your business plan on how this wouldnt cause the property owners taxes to skyrocket. You have to remember, if you rent or on government housing, you wouldn’t be responsible to pay real estate taxes, therefore any increase to build the schools would not affect this group. 50% of the kids in Pulaski county are on free lunch. To qualify for this income is very low, therefore it is safe to assume that 50% ofbthe residents dont own a home of their own…so 50% of the population would have to pay 100% of this huge burden. That is not right.

          • PC MOM

            October 23, 2013 at 8:24 am

            We live in a county that has no problem financing “tourist” attractions and putting up shell buildings just so they can sit empty. The only thing that I am saying is that I am willing to do my part for building our children new schools! You are the only person on this blog who doesn’t seem to realize the importance of this. Most of the comments on here are in support of building a new school. You compared us to Montgomery County and even suggested that I enroll my student there, so you tell me what is the percentage of taxes do we pay in comparison to homeowners in Montgomery County? My child is NOT in the 50% that are on free lunch, I do not rent! Someone is having to pay taxes on the homes that people are renting. So right back at you…if you aren’t happy with the decision, you can move your children to Wythe County (you know since you said they do it right).

        • PMSDAD

          October 23, 2013 at 8:39 pm

          Pcmom,

          I agree with you a 100% on the transportation museum. You can include the welcome center next to shoneys as well. Both wastes of money. My intention wasn’t to upset you, I apologize if I did. My intentions of writing on this blog was to raise awareness of the need to plan for major capital expenditures. No where in these string of posts did I say it wasn’t needed. I said we need to do it in a manner that is a good business decision, and least affects the taxpayers. I also wanted to show the impact of one middle school (one sports team per sport, faculty and staff job losses, another two empty building, the financial impact on the Town of Pulaski by losing a school). You asked for tax rates, here you go: Montgomery at .89/100, Pulaski at .60/ 100, Wytheville at .42/100. Wythevile has all the corporate parks and the fitness center and still maintains the lowest rate in all of the NRV. This is why I used them as the bench mark as to how we should run our business as a county. I am a lifelong resident of Pulaski County and intend on staying here. This fact is the reason I want my county to not make a bad quick decision. Plan it out, make cuts in staffing, market the excess schools, keep work in house, budget for this and the set the time table. It can be and is time for it to be done in a smart, well planned manner. I am done arguing on this board. If you wish we can meet to discuss ideas on how to achieve both our objectives and we can present these to the BOS.

  4. parent in pulaski county

    October 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    PMSDAD the middle schools that we have now can not be used for another 10-15 years. They are in really bad shape. I have a second grader at Critzer and I hope the new school is built before he leaves there. I am a homeowner and if it means I have to pay a little more for my child and future children to have the education they deserve in a building that is safe, healthy and functional for the students and teachers then I don’t mind. This should have been budgeted for 30 years ago but it wasn’t so now tough decisions need to be made but our kids are too important to let this keep going on for 10 more years.

    • PMSDAD

      October 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Parent in Pulaski County, I respect your opinion, but disagree that the schools cannot be used for a longer period of time. I agree this should have been in the works 25 years ago, and that is our leaders fault, but to not do this as a smart business decision would be just a bad. I wonder if we have any other debt that is about to be paid off i.e. Renfro bldg, PE, Snowville Elem.,, shell buildings, etc that the debt could just replace the old with no impact to our homeowners taxes. Also, just because the school board wants to do this don’t the citizens have to vote on whether to pass a bond referendum to fund this? How does this process go from here?

  5. excellent

    October 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I won’t mind paying a higher tax to educate the next generation! I am sure not going to take it with me when I die! Investment in young minds will pay high dividends.

    • PC MOM

      October 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      @ excellent

      You hit the nail right on the head! I have no problem paying more taxes either. Education is the key to success for everyone!

      • PMSDAD

        October 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm

        Pc mom, wouldn’t you agree that teachers are the most valuable resource in educating our children? I just visited the new 70 million Blacksburg high school, and I don’t feel one bit smarter than when I got there. Buildings do nothing to educate our children, teacher and parents do. Renovate the existing schools and give the teachers the pay increases to attract the best teacher’s for our kids. That is truly how you invest in our kids future, not passing debt on to them resulting from poor planning and uneducated decisions. Increasing the real estate tax to extremely high levels would result in fewer individuals moving into our county because they do not want to pay this rate. If you w
        ant your child to go to a new school, pay the tuition and send them to Blacksburg

        • PC MOM

          October 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

          I do agree that teachers are the most important asset in our children’s education, but how many state of the art teachers do you know who would move here to teach in our out-dated schools? Pulaski County is pretty much a revolving door for new teachers. Our teachers are wonderful and I do think that they deserve to make much more money, but I also think that they deserve to have state of the art buildings to teach OUR children with the best resources that they possibly can! And further more, I shouldn’t have to send my child anywhere else to attend school, I am a HOME OWNER and I pay taxes for Pulaski County and my youngest child is almost done with PMS but I am 100% FOR building a new school for our county’s students.

        • PCHS & DES Mom

          October 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm

          I totally agree that buildings do not educate our children but I also feel that if you have buildings with everything teachers need to educate our children properly, it makes it a better situation for all involved. I have a lot of close friends that are teachers and I can say that I have never heard one of them say they went into teaching for the money. They went into it to educate our children and give them a good chance of having a bright, successful future and to know they made a difference in a child’s life. I do agree that teachers need more money but they also deserve a proper environment to work in. How can even the best teachers be effective and efficient in their teaching in extreme heat? How can children be fully learning and comprehending when it is so hot they just want to go to sleep? If I were a new teacher just out of college and applying for jobs, I have to be honest, I would apply in districts that have suitable schools for teaching that include the technology, air conditioning, safety because in these environments you are going to be more successful. Also, a new school building would give the children such a huge sense of pride. I know the economy in Pulaski is not going to get any better because with the current conditions of the schools we cannot attract young families as they want their children in an environment that is set up for successful learning. I have a college friend that recently accepted a job in Christiansburg and I told her she should look at Pulaski/Dublin area to live and her exact comment to me was, “When I look at Pulaski, I see a place that does not put money where it needs to go. They do not invest money in the future of kids because I can see it in the school buildings and there is no recreation center. I want to live in a location where our kids and health are high priorities.”

          As a parent my main concerns for these schools are they need an air system where the temperatures can be regulated for ideal learning and they need to seriously improve the safety of the schools. The parking and flow of traffic at DMS, PMS and DES is horrific. When I pick my child up from DES and all the windows at ground level are open and all of the doors are wide open to get air in the building, is not safe. What is stopping someone from walking in that building or going through a window for that matter that shouldn’t be there? When I go to events at the school, I cannot wait to get out of there because of the heat, yet I expect my child to learn in that same heat for several hours a day. This just doesn’t make any sense at all!

          I am tired of hearing people say that younger people mostly rent, they aren’t paying the taxes. Instead of complaining, come up with a solution so people do want to buy homes here!

          I know this statement reaches much more than just the school buildings. Pulaski is where it is today because the people of the county have lost their pride for where they live. It is sad. Take pride and get out and vote for our public officials, or even run for office! If we would all get back to where we were proud to say we live in Pulaski and act that way, things would change. As the saying goes attitude is a little thing that can make a big difference!

          • PMSDAD

            October 22, 2013 at 7:16 am

            Some good points made here. But I still have to look at how this will be funded. Blacksburg high school cost 70 million dollars! Do you all realize what this kind of debt will effect our real estate tax rate? You say new schools bring in more residents? Well, unreal tax rates keep people out. Wythe County is as a successful area as there is right now. They make very smart business decisions, plan for the future and educate their children. Population is increasing, yet they have the same schools they have had for a long time. They have renovated the schools they have, without excessive tax burden on their citizens. I say we renovate the schools we have, bring in HVAC by putting in drop ceilings to run all the duct work needed to cool the buildings. This could be done with minimal impact to us home owners taxes.

        • AH

          October 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm

          The School System did a full cost analysis on both middle schools before recomending consolodation. The cost of renovating up to code is much higher than the cost of new construction. The buildings that our middle schools are housed in were outdated in the mid 70′s when PCHS was built. Even if it increases my property tax we have to do something!!!

          • PMSDAD

            October 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm

            Please explain “up to code” . I interpret this as unsafe and unusable. I think you meant to say the are not current, modern school, but they are up to code otherwise they could not be used. I would love to see this report, for there is no way on this earth it costs more to install an HVAC system and run fiber optic, CAT 5 wire and any other wiring needed to update the capabilities of the current schools. The other problem I have is a school system run by an individual that doesn’t even live in the county he is trying to push this debt on. It is easy to make calls like this when you don’t even think enough of our county to move your family here.

          • PC MOM

            October 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

            I cannot wait for our county to break ground on this new school. Our children deserve to go to a school that they can be proud of. A school that was built in the early 1930s cannot be updated enough to become a school of the future.

  6. Susan

    October 16, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    A former PE teacher and athletic director of PMS told us this past Spring that the gym was in the same state of needing repair 25 years ago, but for some reason, the decision was finally made to repair it this past year. Now we’ll get a new gymnasium after throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars bracing up the current walls of the gym.

  7. Patrick

    October 16, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    The county should tear down PMS and build the consolidated school there. I wonder if the Dublin would scream “not fair” if their kids had to come to the “lower end” of the county to go to school.

    • Lisa

      October 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Patrick they wont do it.It seems they want all of the schools out of the Town of Pulaski for some reason.All of the kids in Town will be riding buses out of Town to go to school.

  8. Lisa

    October 17, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I agree with Patrick.Also if they did the proper upkeep on some of the schools they wouldn’t need new ones.Let me give you and example.I read in the paper before they stopped using Claremont School how bad it was.Well I had a friend that worked there to let me and a friend that wanted to see what Claremont looked like inside go in.He showed me the three rooms that were suppose to be so bad and damaged from a leaking roof.It didn’t look that bad to me and I was amazed at how great it looked inside.I went there 1st through 6th grade.He showed me how they repaired the roof.Are you ready for this.They took rolls of plastic from Bondcote and spread them out on the roof.The roof was not repaired correctly and would not have leaked if it had been fixed and maintained properly.

  9. KIds dad

    October 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    We should go behind the current High School and build a new one, then use the other school (High) to consolidate the two Middle Schools. If we do this, we will not be talking about the outdated High School in the very near future. Look at the success of Fort Chiswell (Wythe County).

    We could cut a lot of expense out of future budgets with reduced transportation, property maintenance, and security.

    Put this proposal before the tax payers and see what you get.

  10. Bob

    October 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I agree with KIds dad. Build a new High school and use the existing building as a middle school. These schools could benefit from sharing things like tennis courts, ball fields and vocational class rooms. Any new school should be built in a central area for easy access for all citizens. The county should sell off property to help pay for it (Newbern Elem, Snowville, Draper, Dublin Primary, DMS, PMS…to name a few)
    The land next to New River Community College would be another perfect place.