Parents ask Loudon Co. School Board to address problems at Greenback School

An eight foot hole in the wall where an old radiator used to be is patched with backer board and concrete.

September 4, 2007

WATE 6 News Anchor/Reporter

GREENBACK (WATE) -- Problems at Greenback School in Loudon County are fueling complaints from parents. The parents say the peeling paint and broken windows on the outside are just cosmetic. But you really have to go inside Greenback School to see how out-dated the facility is.

Parents also say the outside mobile units called "learning cottages" are simply trailers with poor air circulation and they're not conducive to learning.

School administrators say the mobile units are necessary since the school isn't big enough for all 700 students.

"We have a great staff, great administration. They do a wonderful job with what they have. But I don't think they're being given the resources or the facilities to be able to prepare our kids to move on," says Ron Sabo, a father of three. 

And a mother, Julie Anderson, says the most frustrating thing is that school board members know about all the problems but seems to be dragging their feet with a solution.

"It's frustrating as a mother when you volunteer over here and your children aren't in what could be the best possible lighting, air quality, heating and cooling that they deserve," Anderson explains. 

Members of the Loudon County School Board and County Commission admit they've known about the problems for years. They've recommended that a new school be built. They even purchased land for the facility. However, no progress has been made.

6 News took parents' concerns to the school board Tuesday and got a tour inside the aging facility.

School board member Larry Proaps lead the tour through the narrow hallways. The oldest part of the school was built in 1939. Several additions have been built over the decades.

"You've got a lot of air conditioner problems here," Proaps explains. "You've got a lot of old classrooms, older technology. The wiring is not up to date. We have air conditioners that are so old, we can't find parts for them anymore."

It's tough to keep cool with wall units that don't always work. One tiny basement classroom has no windows and the third grade teacher admits it's hard to learn when there's a constant banging from the gym upstairs.

In one of the hallways, an eight foot hole in the wall where an old radiator used to be is patched with backer board and concrete.

Teachers say they're going to get creative with the fix by letting the kids create an art project with tile.

Proaps admits the library is hardly adequate to serve 700 students from elementary through high school. The lunchroom is no better. It's small and doubles as an auditorium.

So who's to blame for the outdated facility? "All of us," Proaps says. "When I say that, not only county commission, school board, parents and taxpayers. We should have never let this happen, the building to get in this shape, but we have and it's taken all of us. It's going to take all of us to fix it."

The results of two independent studies show it would cost less to replace Greenback School than try to fix all the problems.

Commissioners say the estimates for a new school range from $20 million to $32 million.

School board members haven't been able to agree on a plan for a new school. County commissioners say they can't look at ways to fund it without a plan.

But everyone agrees that building a new school will require a tax hike of some kind.