Stokes County Superintendent Dr. Brad Rice presented a funding request for the installation of air conditioning at North and South High Schools on Monday afternoon to the county commissioners.
Rice said he attended a basketball game at South Stokes in the middle of winter last year and believed the gym was well over 100 degrees.
“Every time there was a sudden move in the crowd, I was worried someone was going to pass out because it was so hot in there.”
Rice requested the county commissioners consider using the undesignated funding from the Chestnut Grove roofing project of $403,984.44 and possibly pull additional funding from the 2017-2018 capital outlay budget.
“Originally, the board asked me to request funding for the engineering costs so that we could see what we’re dealing with,” Rice said. “Since that time we’ve found out that DPI (Department of Public Instruction) will provide those services for free. We have them scheduled to come April 18 to look at those projects. That’s not to put extra pressure on the commissioners for this because unless the specs change, those drawings will be good from here on.”
Commissioner Ernest Lankford said he believed the project was a good one.
“We will shortly be in the budgeting process and we’ll be looking at all the priorities the school board has set forth,” he said.
Commissioner Ronda Jones said, “In theory, I’m all for it. I don’t know what the realities are right now, but the safety of these kids are paramount. We don’t have much recreation and places for people to go here in this county and these two gyms are important to the citizens.”
Commissioner James Booth believed it was a budgetary item and would need to be delved into further. “As Mr. Lankford said, we’ll have to see what the priorities are.”
He added, “The undesignated funding left over from a previous project is not money just floating around. It came from a designated place and out of a fund.”
Commissioner Ronnie Mendenhall spoke last and provided a unique perspective. As former Stokes County Superintendent, who also served as principal at North Stokes for seven years, he sympathized with the issue, but questioned whether air conditioning at the high schools was the greatest need at the moment.
“I’ve been where you are. Yes, it gets extremely hot in both gyms,” he said. “I was part of the group that came up with a five year capital plan. It may have changed in a little over a year since I’ve retired, but I’m looking at what I see as priority ranks.”
Mendenhall said topping air conditioning install was statewide emergencies funding, replacing the roof at Mount Olive Elementary and a construction and renovation project at Sandy Ridge Elementary.
“I know it does get hot in the gyms because I was there. But are the AC’s at the two schools taken priority over the Mount Olive situation?”
Rice responded, “The Mount Olive situation is needed, but stable. Things have moved around since that list was developed in 2015-16. I would come back to the point that the roofs are stable right now, and in my opinion people are suffering in a gym that’s overheated and the humidity in there is also a major concern. We’re looking at this as a safety issue.”
Rice reiterated it was an issue he and the school board deemed important and would be presenting to the commissioners in the annual budget presentation in weeks to come.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.