Greenback School reopens despite concerns

Some say new facility, not just quick repairs, needed

Hugh G. Willett,

As Greenback School prepares to reopen today following a nearly weeklong closure to detect and seal gas leaks, some Loudon County parents and school board members say it's past time for making short-term repairs.

An inspection last week found no major issues with the lines but recommended some modifications to classroom heating units and replacement of a gas water heater, according to school board member Van Shaver.

"(The school board was) pleased to get the report from the gas line/appliance inspection and that it was no worse than it was," Shaver said. "At least we know the system is safe."

The problem with such temporary inspections and repairs is that they waste limited resources on an aging facility that should be demolished, he said.

Shaver, who is running for Loudon County mayor, said he believes upgrading educational facilities across the county is a priority not just for the school board but also for the entire county. County commissioners have discussed pursuing a school building program.

"I hope County Commission will fund the entire first phase of the building program so that we can begin to upgrade the educational infrastructure in Greenback and across the county," he said.

About 650 children from kindergarten level through high school attend the school, the oldest parts of which date to 1939. A number of gas leaks have plagued the school, the most recent on Jan. 6.

Greenback parents also would like to see the commission fund the building program. About 75 parents and local residents met Friday to talk about the school.

"The main concern is the delay in the building program," said Greenback parent Ron Sabo, who added that his goal is to get as many people as possible involved in the effort to improve county schools. "I sense that people want to get involved."

Among those getting involved is Ken Wahl, a retired teacher and school administrator who said he and his wife decided to start attending parent meetings in Greenback because of concern for the students.

"I live in Greenback, but even if it was a school in Lenoir City that was in this bad a shape, I would still get involved," he said.

Wahl thinks the problem lies with county commissioners who don't want to spend money on schools that are not in their districts.

"I think it's one big political mess," he said.

Wahl said he is concerned that the recent work on the gas lines at Greenback is just a patchwork effort. There are other concerns about the structural integrity of the building as well as mold and carbon monoxide problems that would best be addressed with a new school, he said.

Greenback parents will hold another meeting at the school gymnasium 6 p.m. today. On Wednesday morning, the school board's maintenance committee will tour the school to discuss the recent problems.

Greenback School gas leak sparks parent meeting

Stoney  Sharp

Hundreds of concerned parents filled the gymnasium of Greenback School Tuesday night.

Principal Joey Breedlove shared an update on how the school system was correcting a gas leak that recently closed the school for a week.

The principal said an inspection, conducted by a private architectural firm, checked gas lines and heaters in the school.

The school system has, or is in the process of, correcting any problems found at Greenback School, including replacing the water heater that was connected to the leak.

It was recommended to the school that the Greenback Fire Department continue to check for gas leaks daily or more gas detectors should be installed.

Breedlove hopes the school system will use both safety measures.

Parents were allowed to ask questions to school system officials during Tuesday's meeting.

Several people in the audience said they are concerned about the school's condition and feel a new facility should be built soon.

Breedlove said Greenback School is closer to a new school than ever.  He challenged the community to keep voicing concerns to elected officials.