Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TOP STORY >>School officials ease concerns

Leader staff writer

Parents of sixth-graders who attend Cabot Middle School North had some of their fears allayed Monday night in an informal meeting with school officials held at the school’s cafeteria.

Some parents reported hearing rumors and there has been a lot of speculation about what will go on next year with their students (who will go to the seventh grade) as well as eighth- and ninth-graders who attended Cabot Junior High North, the eight-year-old building which burned to the ground last August. Trailers have been used for school rooms since then.

A possible solution to what has been a trying year since the school burned was outlined for parents who attended the meeting. Superintendent Frank Holman told parents Monday’s meeting was called to “go over the latest plan the district has and other things being considered.”

Before the meeting began parents could be heard talking among themselves about what they thought about the rumors their kids would be attending the high school next school year.

“My son just came home one day and said, ‘Mom, I am going to be going to high school next year,’” one mother said.
“I have heard that too, but I just don’t understand why they just don’t leave them here in the middle school,” another said. “I just don’t think I am going to like this at all. I just don’t think it is good to be mixing our young kids with these older ones.”
“You all have been hearing a lot of rumors but we want to give you facts today,” Holman began. “First I want you to know that the district is going to rezone and there will be an eighth elementary school. We would have already called a meeting, we actually had one scheduled for March 5 but with all the battling with the insurance company (over the Junior High North settlement) and the state we had to cancel because we still didn’t know what we were going to be able to do.”

Negotiations with Great American Insurance Company of Ohio ended after eight months with a settlement of $10 million and the state agreed to match the district 60 percent of the remaining cost to rebuild with a cap at $5.2 million. That leaves the district with approximately $3 million as their share to build the new school, which officials say will cost anywhere between $14 to $18.5 million.

Holman said that with the finalization of the insurance and state settlements the district is ready to move forward with its goals.

“One of our goals has been to eliminate as many portable buildings as we can,” he said. “We want to see students in permanent buildings in case of bad weather. We have some permanent facilities to utilize and we think it will work out for everyone.”

Of the more than 30 trailers being used by the district now, the district proposes doing away with all but 15 and moving them to the high school campus. This is where all seventh through ninth graders, who would have been going to the junior high, will attend school until the new junior high is completed, “allowing students and faculty the better of both worlds,” according to officials.

Dr. Tony Thurman, principal at Cabot High School, says the very best case would be for the new school to already be built and for students to be moved in but that just isn’t the case yet.

“Since it looks like we are all going to be together we need to understand the importance of working together and that is another reason for being here tonight,” Thurman said. “It is going to be 18-24 months before the new building can be constructed so we want to make the best of what we have for students and faculty.” One of the faculty’s big concerns is storms. This is also a concern for parents who want their children to be safe in case of tornados or inclement weather. Changing classes is another concern.

“There are a lot of things to consider here and that is what we have been looking at,” Thurman said. “A lot of you say ‘why can we not just keep the village?’ With that the students have no cafeteria. They eat in bleachers and they are using a portable for a bathroom facility and the village is in a hole. It is just a muddy mess and not the best for our students.”
With new traffic going to be coming in an out of the area to start building the new school, it will also be difficult for parents dropping children off for school, according to Thurman.

Some of the parents wondered why the seventh graders couldn’t just stay at the middle school for the year. But with moving up to seventh grade comes an entire different schedule with students changing classes seven times a day and that is not the structure at the middle school.

“We also have 32 teachers who teach the seventh and eighth graders and these teachers cannot make it from campus to campus in time for each class each day, “ Thurman said. “We know this is going to be difficult at first but we are going to reinforce to students where they need to be at all times and we will always have faculty out to monitor students while on campus.”

Thurman stressed to parents that while he could not promise them their children would never come in contact with a senior high student, he could promise that there would be very limited amount of contact. “We have a plan in place but everyone will need to work with us,” Thurman said.

The districts plan seems to cover every aspect from having separate lunch times where junior high students will eat separately from high school students to dismissing junior high kids five minutes early after school to keep them from having interaction with senior high students.

Thurman also discussed the layout of the plan explaining to parents where the 15 portable buildings will sit on the high school campus, which is strategically placed behind the gym building and beside the S building where students will have science class.

“The students will stay in this area, pretty much segregated from senior high students,” Thurman said. “The senior high students have their own ‘hang out’ place and the faculty will be on site to keep close monitoring.”

Thurman said although the faculty will be reinforcing to students where they should be and the rules of the school, parents also need to do so at home.

“It will take a joint effort from all of us to make it work, but we can do it,” he said. More public meetings have been set for later this month.