Special to The SWT
Editor’s note: This is a research paper submitted by an RU student who attended DMS. She touches on several important points regarding middle school consolidation.
In 1954, Dublin Middle School’s foundation had been laid, classrooms put together with desks and chalkboards, and was ready to be a learning environment for all the children in Dublin. The same was for Pulaski. When they were first built, they were known as the high schools, but then in 1974 a new high school was built to combine Dublin and Pulaski under one roof. The two sites of the high schools then became known as the middle schools. They have both been functioning since the mid-1900s and could use some updating, but new school officials want to get rid of these schools and build new ones.
These schools are old historic sites that many just want to let go vacant and eventually tear down. It breaks many hearts in the community to see old historic sites like this just go to waste. It would be best for the community and the students of the schools that they both are repaired and kept where they are. A new school should not be built to replace and combine the old ones, but rather just keep the ones they have in decent shape.
Many don’t want to see these buildings torn down because just this past year the community had to watch another historic school be torn down. Right across the street from Dublin Middle School was an old building that once was a thriving school that taught children from all around Dublin. Once Dublin Middle was built, they did not need that school anymore so it was left vacant. This then caused windows to be broken out, rodents to take over, and the building to give in due to no maintenance.
In the last six months, that building was torn down because it was a mess. Many in the community hated to see it go because it was a landmark. It had been there since the early 1900s. For people like me, it was emotional because my grandpa attended that school. I think it is so interesting to know that in that building my grandpa, a now 78-year-old man, attended school there and can still look at it and remember all the fond memories that happened there. I feel as though the same would happen with the middle schools now.
Not only did my grandpa attend the school across the street, but he also attended Dublin Middle School when it was known as a high school. When I walked down the halls of school every day between 2006 and 2008, I thought about how my grandpa also once walked those halls going to class. It may not mean much to many, but it is exciting to me to know that school has been around long enough for three generations of a family to go through it.
Many look at solely the prices to make their choice of renovating or building new. Building a new school to combine both Dublin and Pulaski Middle would be rather costly. OWPR Architects and Engineers were called in to do a study of the price of renovating and building new middle schools. Officials of this company, Bill Bosher and Lane Ramsey, pointed out that since both of the schools are in need of major renovations, the county should consider merging the two because it would be easiest (Williams, 2012, p.1). To renovate, it would cost an estimated $33,000,000 per school, therefore totaling close to $70,000,000 to remodel.
Another option was to build new middle schools without combining them. This would roughly cost $38,000,000 per school. Even more costly. The final option is to build a new middle school location that would combine the two into one. This is estimated to cost around $60,000,000 (OWPR, 2013). So yes, it does seem as though it is more cost friendly if they are just combined and a new one built, but many don’t want to see the old ones torn down.
Another concept that many people do not consider is simply the teachers and students. Having a larger complex to place more kids together could mean that class sizes go from 20 students to 30. That may not sound like too big of a change, but that means less one-on-one chances the student has to be with the teacher. This could cause many grades of the students to drop because they will not be receiving the help they need to be successful. This would also make it harder on the teacher, because it is hard for a single person to control 30 obnoxious pre-teens/teenagers. Not only would it be harder for teachers to control them, but because so many different learning styles are in the same class, it may take longer for them to teach concepts so that every student understands and learns it.
With classrooms being filled with more students, fewer teachers are needed. That means that if the schools combine, many teachers may possibly lose their jobs. This fact alone is devastating, knowing teachers are always needed and Pulaski County is just going to let their knowledge go to waste instead of implementing their uses in the classrooms. If the schools do combine, all teachers need to have job security and know that they will always have a class each year.
Charles Shelton, an eighth grade math teacher at Dublin Middle School, says that he would love to keep the schools just the way they are because they love the site. He does think it would be a lot easier to build new than try to fix everything that is wrong with the schools, but would hate to see them go. Shelton would hope that if they remolded, they would make Pulaski Middle School more handicap accessible, because he is paralyzed from his waist down and in a wheelchair. When he has to attend meetings there, he has so much trouble getting around. He is thankful that at Dublin he has no problem with that due to easy accessibility. Therefore, he just wants the schools to be remodeled and fixed up. He also said that if they were to combine, he would hope they would keep all the teachers which would make class sizes stay the same.
Shelton does think, since there has always been a rivalry between the two schools, there may be some conflict between the students at first. Since students at this age are in such an odd stage of their life (trying to figure out where they fit in), he thinks that bringing more together would cause more drama. Shelton himself would love to keep the schools as they are because not only does he love teaching there, but he loves the smallness and working so closely with colleagues to teach students (C. Shelton, personal communication, Nov. 8, 2013).
Robin Keener, Dublin Middle School’s principal for about eight years, saw a different side of this argument. Keener said, “The advantages of a new combined middle school far out way the disadvantages” (R. Keener, personal communication, Nov. 8, 2013).
Many do not see her side of the story, just because too many don’t want to combine the schools while the kids are still that young. Keener wants them to build a new school just because the old ones have too many things to fix, such as old electrical wiring, plumbing, etc. She also takes into consideration as to where the students would be placed while they renovated the old schools. This could be done over the summer, though, and they would not have to worry about moving the students to other locations. She would also like the new school due to the advancement in technology they would get.
If the schools were to combine, they would purchase all new equipment to aid in students’ learning. Although, the architects did not take that into consideration, therefore causing building new to even cost more. Keener does not believe there will be an increase in fights and violence if the schools are consolidated because some of the kids already play sports together, go to church together, etc. Therefore they already know each other from the community, but as Shelton stated above, the more students that are combined cause there to be an increase in violence whether you predict it or not. At that age, there is so much “drama” that with more kids together, there will be more “drama” to get into. Keener finally stated, “I love the grounds here at Dublin Middle School, but these students deserve better” (R. Keener, personal communication, Nov. 8, 2013).
Building new or old is not the community’s main concern on this topic. The school board held a public meeting for the community to give the concerns in September. Southwest Times writer, Shannon Watkins, wrote, “Most of the roughly 20 people there expressed a desire to be cautious financially and an understanding that higher taxes to pay for the school would be inevitable” (Watkins, 2013, p.1). Members of the community understand how many people around here struggle just to pay bills now, much less if taxes increased. Pulaski County is a small town with people on a limited budget. Therefore they cannot afford an increase in taxes.
Many community members would like to see new facilities, but know it would be best to just remodel. Sue Swaim states in a database that she wrote that many do not foster the idea of consolidating middle-level schools. She understands what many people in Pulaski do involving the budget and the fact the age of students is very difficult to have large numbers of them together and control them well (Swaim, 1997, p. 60).
Dublin Middle and Pulaski Middle are very old schools, but if they were given some tender loving care then they will be just fine. The schools are in great need of updating and fixing many problems that are present. It would not only be easier to fix all the little problems than build a whole new school, but it would be better for the community to keep the schools how they are now. Pulaski citizens have limited budgets and cannot afford to build new. There are many advantages to building new such as technology and rewarding students for their hard work, but since that is a crucial age in kids’ lives, they should be kept separate.
The middle schools are historic sites and should be restored, not let go and torn down. It would also be in the students’ and teachers’ best interest that the schools are just restored back to how they need to be. If the county had just maintained the schools they have now, they would not have to be worrying about fixing all the problems. If a new school is built, are they just going to let it go like they have done the current middle schools? Pulaski County needs to keep Dublin Middle School and Pulaski Middle School separate for the sake of saving money, keeping students out of trouble, and to restore the historic sites of the middle schools now.
OWPR Architects and Engineers. (2013, May 2). Study of options for renovations, additions, and new construction. Retrieved October 28, 2013 from http://www.pcva.us/.
Swaim, S. (1997). American school board journal: In defense of middle schools. ERIC.
Watkins, S. (2013, September 23). Middle school consolidation hearing draws mixed responses. The Southwest Times. http://www.southwesttimes.com/2013/09/middle-school-consolidation-hearing-draws-mixed-responses/
Williams, M. (2012, April 28). Merged middle schools suggested. The Southwest Times.