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Parents talk growth, renovation concerns for area schools

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By Brian Slattery

Brunswick County parents want school representatives to go forward with facility and program upgrades.

The school system hosted three community focus group meetings Jan. 22-24 at the county’s three high schools. They were designed to get input from parents and community members about how to meet student educational needs.

Consulting firm KBR Building Group is handling information-gathering, which began with the consultant interviewing more than 300 people in fall 2012.

“We are identifying education programs best suited to produce college- and career-ready high school graduates, and the learning environments and facilities to support them,” Bill Cline, KBR program manager, said.

The public forums drew around 70 total participants to North Brunswick, South Brunswick and West Brunswick high schools last week.

In the focus groups, consultants presented ideas developed out of individual interviews and asked community members if they supported the ideas. Then they asked participants to get specific about issues. 

“We are looking for your opinions, and we understand you’re not experts. We will send your opinions to experts (to confirm there is a need),” said KBR’s Travis Twiford, who spoke at WBHS on
Jan 24.

Each audience member was given one green and one red 5-inch-by-7-inch index card to hold up when they agreed or disagreed with a question Twiford asked. Green was yes; red was no.

The first question: Do Brunswick County facilities need to be replaced?

Yes, they said.

Parents in the audience said Lincoln Elementary needs to be replaced, any school that uses trailers should have them eliminated, and Waccamaw Schools’ open campus is a safety concern in the wake of recent school shootings.

Regarding the need for additions, concerns were expressed about Waccamaw School, Cedar Grove, Supply and Virginia Williamson elementary schools, Leland Middle and NBHS.

Renovations needed included band/chorus rooms for Cedar Grove, North and South Brunswick high schools, a bigger gym at Waccamaw, and computer rooms at several schools.

The audience overwhelmingly agreed Brunswick schools are overcrowded, citing the number of trailers used throughout the school system and places like Virginia Williamson where they use a stage as a classroom.

When asked how to alleviate overcrowding, parents endorsed adding a fourth high school and a vocational school.

While a vocational high school building received support, the idea of having the same programs in each high school was split 50/50.

Parents said they wanted schools to offer graduation and technical diplomas, a hospitality and tourism program, and workforce development classes. They also wanted an expansion of auto technology classes at WBHS to all high schools.

The audience’s only significant negative response came when asked if the school system uses technology to its fullest extent.

And only about 60 percent agreed programs currently offered prepare graduates for future jobs.

Responses received during the three days of focus groups will be added to results KBR has collected, Cline said.

Consultants will present their findings at a board workshop during a special meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.

A second workshop to discuss facility needs and potential cost estimates is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.

 

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.