The Campbell County School Board agreed Tuesday night to move forward – very cautiously – on new classroom space at White Oak Elementary School.  WATCH the meeting here.

Earlier this year, White Oak parents and teachers flooded a school board meeting to ask for a new gym, with the current gym being converted to classrooms to replace two trailers that are currently used as classroom space. The board agreed to have core drilling carried out to see if the site was compatible for a new gymnasium.

Last month Director of Schools Jennifer Fields reported the core drilling has been completed and with that data now available, the building committee can begin discussions about the best options for adding more space at that school and whether adding a new gym at that site is feasible or not.

This month the board completely dropped any discussion of a new gym, but instead went through a somewhat contentious debate about adding new classroom space at the school.

Johnny Bryge began by stating that he was not prepared to vote on $750,000 without an ADM report. “I’m just one, but we work for the taxpayers,” Byrge insisted.

Steve Morgan, who represents the White Oak area, challenged Byrge’s statement, observing, “We just spent a million dollars on a track complex. That’s something not all students can benefit from.”

Morgan continued to remind the board that the need for classrooms at White Oak is a safety issue, and children are exposed to poor weather when they must move between classrooms.

Finance Director Jeff Marlow was asked about the upcoming school budget and replied that student numbers are projected to be down again across the state, but how much that will impact the budget could vary widely, with a $1.25 to $1.5 million shortfall in state funding possible.

Marlow added there are two options open to the board, one to have architects give an estimated cost or have the architects develop a detailed set of plans that would provide firm numbers.

Morgan then offered a motion to ask architect Matthew Brady to draw up detailed plans for two classrooms. Byrge protested, “You’ll spend fifty grand up front.”

Crystal Creekmore seconded Morgan’s motion but the vote failed 5-4.

Lisa Fields then offered a motion to ask the architects to prepare an estimate first, with costs somewhere in the $7,500-10,000 range. That motion passed 8-0 with Byrge abstaining.

In addition to possible loss of revenue due to declining enrollment, the board also faces more budget stress from the legislature. Faye Heatherly reported on voucher bills moving through the committee system and added that the “education savings account” being pushed is also a form of school voucher with no accountability for how the money would be spent. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 04/11/2019-6AM)