Byron Gladden (District 7) Statement on the Future of Gateway Education Center
Despite reports to the contrary, the GUILFORD COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION has not decided the future of Gateway Education Center. As a board member, I was not notified about the “scheduled’ on-again, off-again media conference on Sunday and had no prior knowledge about the school system’s announced recommendation to close Gateway.
The Board’s normal process when considering closing a building is to evaluate the facility, schedule and hold a public hearing and then make a final decision. At this point, all of these steps have not occurred. Any announcement at this point is premature.
Closing a building requires that we consider more than just the physical campus. We consider its educational suitability, site conditions and technology readiness. And we need to hear from the people who use this building. Gateway is not just a school. It is one of the county’s four facilities for exceptional children. Moving students is more difficult than simply redrawing an attendance zone.
The Board of Education will meet on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. for a budget work session, that may include discussing Gateway.
While no final decision has been made, earlier this year, based on concerns expressed by the staff, we did hire an external evaluator to examine Gateway for mold. While they did not find mold in the areas where student instruction occurs, they did find a small patch of mold in the ceiling above the teacher’s lounge and recommended a number of changes to direct water away from the facility, including grading, gutter repairs, a new roof and windows.
And based a facilities study, conducted by MGT Consulting Group and presented to the board in January, Gateway was not slated for closure. Although the study did note that Gateway was in poor condition and needed major repairs. They also noted that the school, with a capacity for 269 students, only had 146 students and was underused.
Recent rains have exasperated Gateway’s roof issues as water has been seeping into the facility.
As a board, we will look at what steps to take and make a decision about what’s next.
I have requested a detailed analysis of what is necessary to bring Gateway up to par. If roof and windows are what’s needed, we may be able to tackle these projects during the school year and if necessary, have them completed by the Fall 2019 start of school. But without a work list and cost analysis, I don’t have enough facts to decide. I don’t know how much money will be needed and if we have that in other areas, or need to make a special request to the county commissioners.
The MGT study recommended about $784,000 to complete all renovations, but I’m not sure if all of this will be needed for roof and window repair.
While Gateway is in my district, my concerns about closing this, or any other school, is that we follow our stated processes. Parents and staff should not have to find out about a school’s future without having the opportunity to share their concerns and to hear the facts.
While I have concerns about closing Hampton, parents there were given the opportunity to voice their opinion. We need to do the same here.
As a board member, I take seriously my responsibility to ensure that the students of Guilford County get the best education possible and that we are good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to us. It is my duty to represent not just the people in my district, but all of the county’s citizens.