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See for yourself: Wilson school board invites public to tour old high school
Nov 30, 2012 3:30 pm
The Wilson County School Board invites all interested parties Saturday morning to tour of the old Lebanon High School.
A motion that failed to garner a second at the November Wilson County Board of Education meeting on plans to use parts of the old building as a middle school has stirred controversy as parents and county commissioners express fear that a building that was sold as substandard during the push for a new Lebanon High School, either is not as bad as advertised or will force students into an unacceptable, or even unsafe, building.
The person most on the hot seat for the proposed plan is Director of Wilson County Schools Mike Davis. Davis said he and the school board have nothing to hide.
"Anyone who wants to come see the building is welcome. Anybody who wants to walk through it is welcome," Davis said. "We're trying to be transparent. The school board is looking at the options with the middle school issue. This tour will allow the public to view the school as it really is."
He said parts of the old LHS are not that old and, he believes, might be usable with some renovations.
"Parts of the old high school are newer than what they're currently housed in," Davis said. "There's nothing to hide there. There are things that will need to be updated."
He added that, as it exists today, the school system could not use the entire building because it does not meet fire codes.
"The fire marshal said we could utilize the entire building if you put in a sprinkler system," Davis said. "We would use the hallway that leads to the areas renovated in 1985. The cafeteria was upgraded in 1985, and we could use the library and gym. The auditorium was renovated in 2002, and another part in 1995. The architect will have a depiction of all those areas and when they were built with him on Saturday."
He said that he fears people are being influenced by rumors and he hopes the tour will clear up a lot of questions.
"There's been a lot of misinformation, and a lot of rumors," Davis said. "If you put 20 people in a circle and one person whispers to the one on their right, by the time it gets back it's distorted. We want the people to come through and look at it for themselves. I think everybody should see this building. We're not hiding, we're not doing anything in secret."
He also said no vote can be taken on the subject until the New Year.
"We have deferred any action until January," Davis said. "Our options for a middle school are, No. 1, to use the property on Harding Drive, No. 2 building a new middle school, or No. 3 adding on to existing facilities."
Regardless of how it turns out, Davis wants to get the matter settled. With the four new county high schools done or, in the case of Watertown, about to begin construction, he wants the middle school issue settled for the good of the students.
"Here we are spending a quarter of a million dollars a year to maintain this building when we've got students in portable classrooms," he said.
Davis thinks opposition to the idea of the old school being renovated as a new middle school comes from a lot of sources.
"Some people don't like the site," he said. "Other don't like middle school concept."
Davis said changes in state education rules will make it necessary to get middle schools into their own facility if possible. He explained that new certification rules force middle school teachers to teach only subjects they are certified in, and not any class in grades Kindergarten through grade 8.
"There will no longer a pre-K through grade 8 license," he said. "Middle school teachers will have to be certified in the four core areas - math, science, language arts and social studies. No longer will we have someone certified to teach third grade teaching middle school math. The idea is to get them better ready for high school."
Davis said there is also a financial consideration.
"The architect estimates it will cost about $12 million to renovate the old building," he said. "But he will have more specific numbers on that Saturday."
Davis emphasized all he's concerned with is making sure Wilson County students get the best education and facilities the county can afford.
"That's what are we about," he said. "The building does not a school make, it's the teaching and learning that takes place in the building that makes a school."
The tour of the old high school will begin at 9 a.m.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.