Garner Cleveland Record

Supporters of Garner renovations concerned with renovation plans of Garner Magnet High

Supporters of the plan to renovate Garner Magnet High School say the school system needs to tear down the outdated school completely and build it from the ground up for the health and safety of the people in the school.

A Garner High teacher, Tyler Farrell, emailed town council member Kathy Behringer on Jan. 5, asking for the town council’s support on the issue. The school has mold and mildew on the walls, Farrell said in the email. He said that during a public input session with parents and staff at the school, central office staff proposed two plans – plan A and plan E – for the renovations of the school.

What those plans are, exactly, is unclear.

School board chairwoman Christine Kushner and board member Monika Johnson-Hostler said they were unaware of the two plans because the plans were still at the staff level and had not been presented to the board.

Johnson-Hostler said parents and teachers have not explained what the plans are, but have just asked her “not to support Plan A.”

“All the emails have been asking me to choose ‘Plan E,’” Johnson-Hostler said. “I don’t know what either one of those are.”

According to the email sent to Behringer, Plan A keeps some of the older buildings, while Plan E renovates the entire campus.

There is concern among the school faculty and staff that the buildings that would be retained under Plan A have mold and mildew issues, Behringer said at the town council meeting Tuesday night.

“My concern is that the high school needs to be renovated as we were promised,” she said. “We as a council and as a city promoted the school bond referendum with the understanding that a portion would be given to Garner High School for complete renovation.

“You can’t treat mold and mildew. You have to get rid of it. It comes back. If it’s in the wood it comes back.”

Town Council member Gra Singleton echoed her sentiments.

“We were told that we were going to get complete renovations,” he said. “It’s important that we get what we were told. You asked the voters to support it. Not doing what you told voters you were going to do with the bond approval is a good way to not get the next bond vote approved.”

But Assistant Superintendent Joe Desormeaux said there are no plans A or E and that the school will be renovated, although the school system doesn’t plan to tear down all the buildings and start from scratch. He said the district will take care of the mildew and mold if there is such a problem.

“It will get renovated because you have to fix whatever was causing that problem,” he said. But he said that doesn’t necessarily mean those parts of the buildings will be torn down.

“It all depends on what’s causing it,” Desormeaux said. “It could be cracks in the walls from barriers that have failed, could be roof leaks, water leaks. It could be a lot of different things. You would fix whatever the issue is. Seal the cracks, fix the roof or fix water pipe leaks. That’s if there is mildew and mold.”

The 2013 documents presented during the bond campaign say that 39 percent of the school, which is the majority of the original construction in 1967, will be torn down. The rest will be renovated.

Higher construction costs

School administrators said recently the first group of projects largely funded by the 2013 school construction bond issue cost more than anticipated. The trend is accelerating to the point that some school leaders say the district should prepare a “worst-case scenario” if the original plan for 16 new schools and six major renovations can’t be completed. One of those schools is Garner Magnet High School. It will cost $67 million to complete.

“Because of the recent news about escalating construction cost, we are concerned that they are going to cut corners on the renovations,” Behringer said. “Some of the areas or some of the smaller buildings might not be torn down. Our concern is that everything that is problematic needs to be done over. What I have a problem with is them not tearing down any building that has mold and mildew in it. Mold and mildew cause other health problems.”

Voters approved an $810 million school construction bond issue in October 2013, paving the way for $990 million in projects. But during the past few months, bids have come in progressively higher than projections

“I understand they have some issues, but Ms. Behringer’s right, that’s not our issue,” Singleton said. “That should have been figured into it.”

Behringer suggested that the town ask that the board to reallocate the money set aside for the new elementary school, which is proposed to be built in Garner in the next few years, and put it into completely rebuilding Garner High.

“We do not believe we need a new elementary school in Garner,” she said.

Mayor Pro-tem Ken Marshburn disagreed.

Marshburn said sees the elementary school as an asset in the future as Garner grows.

“I think that was considered as one of the expenditures in the bond project, and while it certainly may not look like we need it now, we certainly may need it in the not-so-distant future. To take it off all together would bother me some. Ideally that wouldn’t have to happen from my perspective.”