By Heather Mullinix
The building and grounds committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education wants to revise the long-range plans for construction in Cumberland County, opting to build additions at elementary schools with portables around the county.
"That's going to help with safety issues to have all the students in wings instead of portables," said Vivian Hutson, 6th District representative.
Hutson proposes North Cumberland Elementary, with seven portable classrooms, and Crab Orchard Elementary, with need for a new gym, expanded cafeteria and classroom, be the first schools to receive additions. The Crab Orchard gymnasium is not handicap accessible from the main school, requiring those individuals to use a separate entrance or be carried down the steps to the gym floor. There was also a question of if the gym was large enough for regulation basketball games, though exact dimensions of the gym were not available at the meeting.
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said, "The past board had a vision of an elementary school to take of all those portables at North and that would allow some of those students to go to a new elementary school, but also let some of those students that we're busing to Martin to go to the school closest to where they live."
That plan would have a domino effect at most other schools, VanWinkle said, allowing Martin to then take students that are being bused to Homestead to attend the school closest to them, and so on.
VanWinkle said the board would need to consider a new long-range plan to replace the one approved about 12 years ago.
David Bowman, 7th District representative, said he didn't believe the county would support a new elementary school but did believe the school system could build support for projects at individual schools.
Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, said the committee would need to have school sites assessed to determine if space for additions would be available at the schools and to estimate the cost. VanWinkle said that was being done.
Hutson said, "The schools we have are not full, except for the portables, which we're wanting to remedy."
VanWinkle noted the plan to build an addition at North would mean those portable classrooms would be replaced. She asked where the students would be housed during construction. The portables currently house three fourth-grade classrooms, two special education classrooms, a teen living and agriculture classroom and storage space.
Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, proposed building a multi-purpose room at the school first, with portable partitions, to house students while a new wing is under construction.
Hutson also proposed wings in the future at Homestead and South Cumberland, to eliminate portable classrooms at those schools.
A new long-range building program would need to be approved by the full board.
The committee also discussed facility needs at North Cumberland, which has experienced problems with its roof this past year and has portions of the exterior bricking in need of new mortar.
The school's roof is under warranty until November 2015. The company that performed the work, Hugh Brooks Industries, has a new owners that has said he will contact the school to discuss the issues and see what can be done to correct problems.
"If it's not fixable, we'll have to go another route," Hutson said.
The committee also wants the school's mortar on the exterior evaluated by Midstate Maintenance of Ohio that is currently working on replacing the mortar at the Cumberland County Justice Center to get an idea of the feasibility and cost of such a project. That project will be proposed for the 2013-'14 budget, VanWinkle said.
The board will meet for a work session at 6 p.m. April 18 to discuss the 2013-'14 budget. That meeting will take place in the board room of the Central Office, 368 Fourth St.