Back in April, the Cross Keys HS community was told that the SPLOST III and DeKalb School of Technology-North move, site plans and schedule would be presented by DCSS in the June time frame. In July, Patricia Pope told the AJC that the community would see the plans by "mid-August." Last night, November 3, 2009 we got our look-see and our question and answer session in a public meeting in the school's media center (that's the library for oldsters like me).
Let's start off with the goods! Here are the four elevations shared at the meeting:
|Building Addition - 4th wing
|Art Classrooms - 4th wing
|Main Office Enhancements
The turn out was substantial with easily 100+ attendees crammed into the school's small library (literally standing room only this night). Faculty, parents, neighbors, local officials, and DCSS employees accounted for probably 80% of the audience and included friends of Cross Keys from outside our zone such as Ella Smith and Page Olson. The remaining 20% were current students!
The kids at CKHS did it again and took me off guard by their commitment and effort on behalf of their own school. How about that - the children are filling the gap in leadership in our community and school system! They had many great questions.
There were many touching moments during this 1 hour meeting that ran 2 hours. At the end of the meeting, there were still many hands in the air. Ms. Heckman, Area Assistant Superintendent, Region 1, did a great job trying to address the many questions and concerns while staying positive. Ms. Barbara Colman, described as "interim" construction chief, spoke directly, competently, and seemed very attentive to those present and their concerns. She also stayed quite a while afterward to answer individual questions.
While a lot of ground was covered, the majority of it had to do with the long history of neglect of Cross Keys HS. Everyone expressed delight with the planned improvements but it became very clear very early that the attendees felt the project will deliver far from what is hoped for and needed. This, of course, should be no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the overall situation. There was little in the way of revelations or "news."
That said, here are some random items worth noting:
- Ms. Colman did indicate that interior ADA requirements would be in scope and I also heard her say the tennis courts would be restored/replaced after the modular classrooms were removed.
- In a sidebar, there was agreement that DCSS Facilities could effectively encapsulate some of the fragmented asbestos tile that has been a concern of Jeff Bragg's (longtime CKHS faculty member) for some time without having to wait for the renovation plan to be executed.
- "The Long Summer non-Start" - The construction team has been on hold awaiting 12 permits. The only one remaining is the Land Disturbance Permit which they are expecting any day.
- Evergreen Construction has apparently done some work for Gwinnet Co. schools with some success and this is their first project for DeKalb Co. - there was much in the way of high expectations for quality and speed set by Ms. Colman and Evergreen.
- The team is now talking aggressively again about being finished by next school year if things go well - that was a surprise but, of course, not a commitment.
- Steve Donahue was present and immediately responsive to complaints about the conditions in the trailers. He stayed afterward and took down specific trailer numbers for action.
- Jeff Bragg made the striking point that much of the items being discussed at the meeting were first discussed when the current CKHS seniors were in the 4th grade.
- Don McChesney did a great job of summing up the situation with SPLOST overall and the failures of the past at Cross Keys HS and around the County.
I did not plan to record any of the meeting but once I sensed some very moving things being said, I fired up the mobile phone camera. So, even though they are poor quality, here are what I consider a few interesting excerpts from the Q&A. I will also post an update here with a long, uninterrupted segment of the Q&A later that includes some of the student interactions. I will answer any questions folks have to the best of my recollection if there are any specific ones you have in mind post it in comments.
During the SPLOST III public meeting on the topic of planned renovations at Cross Keys HS, a mother of a member of the girls soccer team expresses concern about the security and condition of the athletic field and whether this will be addressed in the plans. (first half in Spanish so wait for translation and answer in English)
Mr. Albert Martin, a life-long area resident and former substitute teacher and campus coordinator for Cross Keys, asks why Air Quality and Mold corrective action has to wait for the renovation while it has been a known issue for at least 3 years (see still photo at very bottom of this post). The answer is delivered by Ms Beth Heckman, Area Assistant Superintendent - Region 1. Ms. Heckman also asks to recognize the students and parents present.
Don McChesney Addresses Community Concerns (full text below - sound is hard to follow)
Text of Mr. McChesney comments: "Folks, I'm so old I remember when this school was new. And I remember when it was the show-place of DeKalb County. And I would like to get it started on its way again.
And I've heard what people have said; I hear your skepticism. You heard a lots of the problems of the past - the given schedules that haven't occurred. And I understand why you don't believe much of what we say.
The only thing I can say right now is: it's going to happen. It is going to happen. And these folks that ... there are eight other Board members besides me that ask these questions. And we've asked these questions of these folks here. We want to see you get a quality building here. And it is going to happen.
Evergreen has a very good reputation and I know of them in other Counties. What you've done some work in Gwinnett County and so forth and I'm very familiar with that.
To re-hash the past and all the failures will only make us spin our wheels. We can't reclaim that. It is done; it's gone and it wasn't a good story. But we're at a new place now. And I think if you start and look at what's going to happen at this new place, you will be pleased with what happens.
Now to address one other thing and this is what I telling Kim all the time we talk. And Mr. Moseley mentioned this tonight. Everybody wants so much. We have $2 billion dollars worth of needs in the County; $500 million of money to do it.
That means you get 25%. That's what all the schools get. They're going to get 25% ... [obscured by background noise]
Down the line I hope there will be further improvements but I think you're going to like what you get here. It's going to happen soon as soon as the County, not the DeKalb County Schools, but the County building permits people give us permission to go it is going to happen. And you'll actually see mortar, bricks, and dirt and things happen. And when that happens I think it will make it happen.
And if it doesn't happen, there are those of us on the Board that are going to be asking asking these people why it didn't happen. Because remember now, as a politician, I finally I have to answer to you. And you're going to ask well why didn't you get this done. Well, we're going to ask those same questions.
And I know these folks are very dedicated to what needs to be done here. And please please give them the chance now to do this. And try to get past as much as you can because, like I said, it is not going to help where we are now. This is going to happen and I think you are going to like it." -Don McChesney, BoE District 2
Mold of unknown source has been growing in CKHS classrooms for years. This shot is in a room that has not had flooding from rain or condensation but is on a hall that has had sewage backups. There is no known source for moisture in the rooms that may be feeding the mold.