Many Evans High School students will be forced to learn in portable classrooms as asbestos is removed from the school's air-conditioning ducts.
Later this month, the school system will begin accepting bids to replace the school's air-conditioning system. That replacement process will involve the removal of asbestos from insulation in the ducts, Columbia County Schools Associate Superintendent Charles Nagle said.
Tommy Price is calling for a task force to study ideas for the county's fifth high school.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
At a Tuesday meeting, the Columbia County School Board approved spending more than $200,000 on 12 portables for Evans High.
One wing of the high school will be shut down at a time during the asbestos-removal process, and some of the classes will move to portables.
"Twenty-two classes will be affected in each wing," Nagle said. "Ten of those classes will float between classrooms and the others will be held in portables."
Each portable will cost the system $16,787.
"We hate to have to (spend that), but we feel like this is a rush and is necessary," Schools Superintendent Tommy Price said.
School officials said they intend to have the asbestos removed and the new air-conditioning system in place by the beginning of the 2005-06 school year.
Currently, students are safe and are in no danger of asbestos exposure, Price said.
"We know this is a sensitive issue," he said. "We want to limit fear of exposure."
Also at the meeting, school board members discussed forming a task force to examine options for the county's next high school.
Although the next high school likely won't be built for another six to seven years, Price recommended forming the task force now to determine what would be in the best interest of the school system.
"It's not imminent, but at the same time, we need to start looking at it," he said.
The group would examine the possibility of building some type of magnet school, or other alternative school, as opposed to a comprehensive high school.
Price told board members he would establish some criteria for the task force and present it to the board at their next meeting Oct. 26.
"We're going to need a lot of community involvement here, particularly if we're going to explore the magnet concept," he said.
The board also discussed adding more vocational opportunities for students at Lakeside and Greenbrier high schools. Harlem and Evans high schools already offer many vocational courses.
By expanding student choices in courses, either through a magnet school or vocational additions, the board hopes to lower the dropout rate.
According to statistics presented at Tuesday's board meeting, 341 pupils dropped out of school in the 2003-04 school year - 113 at Harlem High; 106 at Evans High; 58 at Lakeside High; 52 at Greenbrier High; four at Evans Middle; three at Harlem Middle; two at Grovetown Middle; and one each at Columbia, Lakeside and Riverside middle schools.
Of those 341 pupils, 187 opted to leave school early and take the GED. The next highest number, 95, simply quit attending.
"The 95 is a bigger problem," Price said.
He believes that figure represents "a lack of value for education" in some pupils.
Counselors will be charged with learning ways to identify potential dropouts early and encourage them to stay in school, Price said.
In a closed portion of the meeting, board members officially accepted the resignation of former transportation director Jim Sharpe, who turned in a letter of resignation Oct. 4. In the letter, he gave no specific reason for his leaving the school system, Nagle said.
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