Jan. 31, 2020
TO THE EDITIOR:
As a parent of three children at White Oak Elementary School, I am deeply concerned about the rapidly growing population at our end of the county and that impact on our school. As a Carteret County native, I take pride in the education I was provided and want those same educational opportunities for my children. My husband and I chose this school district because, among many other reasons, WOES has a reputation for outstanding academics with some of the best and most dedicated teachers in the county.
Our children have had excellent experiences at this school and to that I credit their amazing teachers and committed administration.
However, it is of great concern that the costs of managing school facilities are receiving less attention than facility planning. WOES is a fifty-plus-year-old school that was not built to support the more than 830 children currently enrolled. The percentage of the operating budget for the maintenance and management of the school facilities has decreased, creating a capital renewal crisis placed squarely on the shoulders of our Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
Three years ago, the PTO was forced to take action in rebuilding our playground because incident reports were so significant they included broken arms. While parents agree that fundraising is an essential part of the collaborative educational process, the facilities maintenance needs should be addressed accordingly in the budget.
As parents at WOES, we cannot simply come to school and eat lunch with our children. Our tiny cafeteria has no room for parents or volunteers and is serving 830-plus children in one hour and forty minutes. That means that two full classrooms of children must go through the cafeteria line every five minutes to ensure that all children can eat lunch. If I want to eat lunch with my children, I have to do so in the courtyard area, meaning that I can only eat with them during nice weather. If it is cold, raining, or the weather is otherwise inclement I cannot come for lunch.
Secondly, our gymnasium cannot hold our entire student body. The space is so limited that student assemblies must be separated into two groups. This requires our PTO to spend double money when providing PTO sponsored events to the children. When teachers plan performances and want to invite parents, all of the activities must be done in the classroom because there is not enough room for students AND parents in the gym.
While improved academic and social climate for our children is the top priority, we cannot ignore the need for provisioning adequate professional spaces for the teachers, staff, and administration. Currently, building logistics challenges have created privacy concerns by specialists and mental health professionals sharing spaces. Students receiving Speech Therapy can be interrupted by students with behavioral challenges during their sessions because of shared spaces. This creates a particularly impactful situation during testing.
School counselors are faced with privacy concerns because meetings with one counselor prevents the other counselor from working freely with sensitive information.
The school nurse is housed in a shared office space, creating a constant concern for shared communicable illnesses, as well as the challenge of keeping health information private.
It is with great understanding of the admittedly difficult process for building life-cycle cost analyses that we are seeking attention to our many facilities maintenance and growth concerns. There are over a thousand homes planned for our end of the county and the overcrowding is going to continue to exacerbate our school’s aging maintenance concerns.
I wish to add that, for the past three years, our Board of Education has submitted their budget, of which our County Commissioners have approved approximately half. This number is alarming and we, the parents and citizens of this great Carteret County, must take action on behalf of our children.
SARAH STIPE PLAUT