GREENSBORO — Families learned Wednesday students won’t return next academic year to the three elementary schools damaged in an April tornado.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras delivered the news to parents at two back-to-back meetings Wednesday night. A third meeting is planned for today.
School leaders are still working with the district’s insurance company to determine what the company will pay for the damaged schools. There was no update on what work needs to be done to the buildings.
Leaders told Peeler parents their children will continue to attend Bluford. The district offered Hampton families a choice at their meeting — parents voted to stay at Reedy Fork rather than sending students to either nearby Simkins or Falkener elementary schools. Leaders plan to hold a meeting with Erwin parents tonight, but haven’t shared details about plans for that school.
To do the kind of construction work that would be needed to reopen, Contreras said, they need to go through typical government steps, like soliciting proposals from contractors. That would cause any project to take longer than the time remaining before school starts.
She also said the district expects to be getting results of a study of the condition of buildings across the district in September that will help with decision making going forward.
Hampton, Erwin Montessori and Peeler elementary students are now attending school in classrooms at Reedy Fork, Alamance and Bluford elementary schools, respectively. Staff and students went together and are using space that’s available in the receiving schools.
The district doesn’t know where the displaced students will be for the 2019-20 school year.
More than 50 people gathered at New Hope Baptist Church in Greensboro to learn about the plan for Hampton. Parents voted overwhelmingly to keep students at Reedy Fork.
Staci Harrelson was one of the parents that voted against keeping the Hampton students at Reedy Fork. Since Hampton at Reedy Fork wouldn’t be accepting any more kindergartners, she will have to find a new school for her son. Harrelson said she keeps her son home now while her daughter finishes fourth grade.
Harrelson said she is going to look into transferring her two children to the same school to prevent them from being split up again.
“I don’t know where, I just want them to be together,” she said. “I want my son to be able to walk through the halls and be able to see his sister.”
Michael Cook has lived in Greensboro for almost two years and his son has been at Hampton since. Cook said he isn’t familiar with all of the schools in the city but likes his son’s experiences so far at Reedy Fork.
“I’d rather him be where he is happy,” he said.
For Peeler, all current students will return to Bluford next year, but the school will not accept new kindergartners or new magnet students. That’s to free up more space.
In response to a question, Contreras said the students won’t return to the old schools at any point in the next school year.
“Yeah, I’m sad,” volunteered current Peeler kindergartner Emory Johnson, who was nonetheless frolicking around in a cheerful manner after the Peeler meeting. Emory liked her before-school morning routine better at Peeler than at Bluford, she and mother Tyesha Johnson explained.
Parents interviewed after the Peeler meeting had a mix of reactions from disappointment to hopefulness, but none seemed angry about the decision.
Crystal Quick, the mother of a Peeler third grader, said Bluford is a nice school, and she’s glad the Peeler students have somewhere to be for the next year.
“I’m just hoping and praying that they get a new school — with all of the technology like the rest of the schools have,” she said.
Contreras told parents that the average age of a school in a district is 50 years old, and so while some schools are new or recently renovated, most are outdated. That’s a countywide issue, not limited to these schools, she said.
Adrienne Spinner, a former candidate for the Guilford County Board of Education, had planned for her daughter to attend kindergarten at Peeler next year.
So she was feeling disappointed and not looking forward to having to find a new school. Still, she said she was relieved the district isn’t rushing needed work at the expense of doing it right.
“I’ll be staying on top of it, and hopefully she’ll be going to Peeler for first grade,” she said.
Contreras said the district would reopen the magnet schools application process for kindergartners and accepted students, or students accepted to the magnet program could choose to attend their home schools. The magnet signup period ended Feb. 16.
A schools spokeswoman said the district was not giving out details Wednesday about what would happen with Erwin. The district has a meeting scheduled with Erwin parents for Thursday night.