Bond dollars would improve conditions for teachers, students
Eric Miller, a math teacher at Porter Ridge High, is a “floater.” He spends a good bit of his time each day pushing a cart, loaded with his teaching materials, from one classroom to another.
“That’s a challenge,” Miller said. “I have three different classrooms, three different set ups. I can’t build in the efficiencies of having one spot, having things on the board, having a certain spot for them to go, because I’m bringing everything with me. I have to hook up my computer, then I have to take it down, then set it up in the next spot. I have to do that in six minutes.”
Miller is one of a number of Union County Public School teachers who “float” from one classroom to another throughout their day as there are not enough classrooms at their school.
Passage of the $54 million bond referendum would add a total of 49 new classrooms to six Union County Public Schools, as well as increasing student capacity in brick and mortar buildings by 2,136 students, thus eliminating those students’ need to have classes in mobile units, as pictured below.
The six schools slated to receive these additional classrooms are Western Union Elementary; Monroe, Porter Ridge, Sun Valley and Piedmont high schools; and Porter Ridge Middle School.
Western Union Elementary School was built in 1956, with a school capacity of about 578 students. By adding eight classrooms and expanding the school’s cafeteria, the school’s capacity would increase to 804 students.
“The eight new classrooms will allow all of our classes to be located inside the school building,” said Western Union principal Kristi Williford. “It will also allow us to put all our grade levels together. Right now, we have grade levels split up on different hallways. Putting all the kindergarten classes, for example, on the same hall will make those teachers feel like part of the team instead of feeling isolated.”
Lynn Mitchell, a 27-year-veteran teacher, begins her seventh year as Sun Valley High School’s chorus teacher. She is also a floater because the school has no chorus room. If the bond passes, however, that will change.
“I look forward to a place we can call ours, where we can put our bulletin boards; a place where we can put our trophies that show our achievements,” she said. “We have some success going on in this classroom. We participate in All-State and All-County chorus. We’ve been to Carnegie Hall in New York City. We were selected to perform at Disney World’s candlelight Christmas celebration. We work hard.”
Her students agree. “We have to carry a keyboard and music stands with us to a classroom,” said Sun Valley High junior Xavier Kelley. “If we’re in the auditorium, we have to move out the piano, turn on the lights, and set up chairs. With our own classroom, the piano could stay in one place. The teacher could be in one place. It would be a lot easier to start class, and work more efficiently. And it would be our personal room. It would feel like a second home because choir is part of our lives.”
Porter Ridge middle and high schools are only about a decade old, but excessive growth in parts of the county has resulted in the need for a total of 19 additional classrooms between the two schools.
With the bond, the high school’s student capacity will increase to 1,800. Porter Ridge Middle has a student capacity of 1,200. If the bond passes, the student capacity for this school will increase to 1,600.
Of all the schools on the bond project list, Porter Ridge Middle stands to gain the most number of new classrooms, as it’s slated to get 15. Principal Dr. Brian Patience said this would impact about 400 students, bringing them inside the school building and allowing the removal of 21 mobile units.
Monroe High School would gain eight new classrooms, two teacher workrooms and two teacher offices, raising its student capacity from 1,000 to 1,500. Its principal, Dr. Michael Harvey, said the school currently has 15 teachers who “float.”
“Each class period, these teachers are shuffled from one classroom to another,” Harvey said. “For teachers to not have their own classroom creates many burdens on all parties.”
Piedmont High principal Dr. Jonathan Tyson said he is excited about the prospect of getting four additional classrooms, two teacher workrooms and two teacher offices.
“With the proposed classrooms and office space, all of my teacher would have their own classroom,” he said. “This is essential as our enrollment is projected to continue to grow over the next two years.”
Porter Ridge High School principal Dr. Bashawn Harris seems to reflect the sentiments shared by most UCPS educators; all hoping the bond will pass and alleviate some of the concerns that currently exist from aging facilities and overcrowded conditions.
“It’s the right thing to do for kids,” he said.
Posted: Sept. 29, 2016