The Transylvania Times -

Everyday Education: This Old School Needs Some Extensive Work


October 8, 2018

I’m sure at least some of you have tuned in to the Public Television show “This Old House” at some time or another. Basically, it’s a show that follows a group of handymen as they rehab old houses. As is often the case, renovations are a tricky business, a lesson I learned working with a contractor over a number of summers during high school and for some time afterwards.

Once the sheetrock is knocked down, you realize the wiring is frayed because the mice decided the insulation would make for a nice bed, or you discover there’s been an old water leak and the floor joists have become a buffet for termites. In short, you may think the house is fine because externally it appears to be, but once the facade is stripped away, the rotted underbelly clearly becomes a problem.

Turns out, this is very much the case at Brevard High School and a number of other schools around the county. For example, my classroom, which is located in the Office Wing, one of the first buildings constructed, looks like it’s in great shape. I have two beautiful murals that were painted by students. The walls, floor and ceiling are in great condition.

However, if these walls could talk, they would tell a very different story. In fact, they sometimes do talk. Because of a plumbing issue in the boys’ bathroom, which is directly adjacent to my room, the pipes would frequently issue forth a noise that sounded like a cross between a bull elephant’s roar and a fog horn. Very. Loudly.

In fact, it became so loud we would have to stop class discussions. After many attempts at fixing it, maintenance decided to turn off water to a portion of the bathroom, which solved one problem and created another one—now there’s only one sink in the bathroom.

I mention this issue because it’s emblematic of many, many other issues here. You don’t notice problems like this if you only come here for the musical or to pick up a sick child. Because of our incredible custodial and maintenance staff, everything looks fine.

While these problems are frustrating, there are much more serious issues we face every day. There are structural problems with the auxiliary gym, with the cafeteria and with the HVAC systems. Classrooms leak. The media center went without air conditioning for months last year.

After attending a Board of Education meeting a few weeks ago, I realized that many people are focusing on only one side of the issue and asking themselves, “Does Brevard High School, Rosman Middle and Rosman High really need these updates and changes?”

That is an important question, but I think there is a more important question we should be asking: What benefits will our kids receive if we do get the money to make these changes? The answer is a simple one. We will be better able to keep them safe, and we will be better able to help them prepare for the future.

Everyone wants our schools to be safe for all students. While BHS is a very safe school, we have more than 60 doors on campus. Many of them stay locked, but there are several that we must keep unlocked so students can move from one wing to another. Both of the new designs reconfigure the campus so that students can move from one end of the school to the other without going outside.

Additionally, visitors could only enter the building from one door, and the office would be in control of locking and unlocking the main entrance. This would make our school safer because we could more easily be aware of the people coming on to our campus. Furthermore, it would allow our special needs students better accessibility, which is important to our entire community.

The new designs also create safer parking lots with improved traffic flow for car riders and bus riders. In short, safety has been the foundation for all the proposed changes.

In addition to addressing the safety concerns, the new designs would allow us to better serve the changing needs of our students. Though the JROTC program at BHS is fairly new, many of our staff have noted those teachers are helping our students develop lifelong social, academic and commun-ication skills. Additional funding would provide for significant upgrades to the facilities used by JROTC, creating a space that would allow our students to take full advantage of the program.

The funds would also address the lighting, audio and backstage issues with our aging auditorium, not to mention replacing the very uncomfortable seats. As I’m sure many of you know, our auditorium serves as the platform for our outstanding arts programs, such as band concerts, the talent show, musical, drama performances, chorus concerts, and much more, so many people, not just BHS staff and students, would enjoy these updates.

As educators, it is our job to prepare students for our changing economy. Many of you know how our county’s employment situation has changed over the last few decades, just as it has all over Western North Carolina. The same is now true for the way students learn and the way we must prepare them to work in a changed economy.

Most employers now want employees with a propensity for colla-boration, for problem- solving, and for using technology to communicate ideas. These significant changes to BHS would create more open spaces for working together and flexible spaces that could be easily rearranged to accommodate a number of different activities, and these new designs and the learning styles that they support will help us continue to prepare students to work in the economy of tomorrow.

In the show “This Old House,” the homeowners, with input from professionals, have to decide what parts of the house to update, what parts to demolish and what parts should be added. Those decisions are based on the priorities of the home-owners. It is clear to me that after a very public conversation about our school needs, we are in a place to finally fund these changes, changes that are solely built around unquestionable priorities: student learning and growth, opportunities for students to express themselves - whether on the football field or on the stage - and, most importantly, student safety.

(Tinsley is an English instructor at Brevard High and advisor to the school yearbook, the Brevardier.)


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