PADUCAH - It started as a conversation about consolidating McCracken County schools, but it led to a long list of complaints about Lone Oak Intermediate School. Parents have said they think the district is moving too quickly in converting the building.
The former Lone Oak Middle School building used to house 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, but now 4th and 5th graders are roaming the halls. Parents believe this is creating an unsafe environment for their children.
We spent hours with the McCracken County Director of Facilities and the principal of the school Tuesday who said they have not received any work orders for any repairs at the school since the planning meeting on January 14th.
The tour started in the Lone Oak Intermediate cafeteria, a place parents say should be safe while kids eat, but it isn't. Both Facilities Director Todd Jackson and Principal Victor Zimmerman looked and found several tiles in the room popping up from the floor without much prying. Parents are concerned about asbestos being beneath their children's feet.
"Any of the tiles or floor mastic that we have in here, which is glue under the tile, is non-friable," said Jackson. "So if that was asbestos, which I don't know that it is, walking and stepping on it wouldn't hurt you. You'd have to actually eat the glue underneath it for it to affect you." Jackson said there is a book on each school with a report about how much asbestos is in each building.
All three lifts appeared to be in working order, and all of the air conditioning units were properly sealed. The building's heaters were also functioning. Jackson said units are inspected when there are reports of them not working, or when the filters are changed.
Most rooms do have shower boards instead of dry erase boards, and while Jackson says he knows it isn't top of the line, they went with those options because they were significantly cheaper. However, he said that as the shower boards age, they will be replaced with dry erase boards.
"We're not doing shower boards anymore. If someone needs a new dry erase board, they'll get a new dry erase board," said Jackson. "I wish we had enough money in the district to get everybody, brand new everything, but we don't."
Exposed wires in an art room was also a concern for many parents, and Jackson agreed that they needed to be done correctly. Victor Zimmerman said he wasn't sure the exact use of the room, but said he thought it was storage for the teacher.
A hole in the wall was also addressed, but that needs to stay as a vent for the current kiln. Jackson said a new kiln has been ordered and if it doesn't need a vent the hole in the wall will be replaced with a window pane.
As much as parents are worried about the conditions inside, they don't like the playground area outside either. Zimmerman and Jackson both agree students had the most to say about what is outside. They said most of the comments were about having areas for social activities.
The bleachers, track, and basketball hoops were all requests, but parents add, the huge pile of rock on the court was not. Jackson said it was put there to be spread under the swings after they were installed, but that project has taken longer than planned.
"We kept getting pulled off for a little more emergent items that we had to work on and then the weather caught us," he said. He added that they have hired a solution.
"We have hired a contractor, as soon as the weather breaks, they'll be in here and they'll knock it out, the swings will be up, because the swings are sitting in our shop," Jackson said. Until then, pins mark the spot and that makes parents uncomfortable. There is a safety barricade to protect kids, but it is not completely in place.
That wasn't the only thing not completely installed. Soccer goals are also not secured to the ground, but Zimmerman said they are designed to be portable. He also said he will try and get them in place so there is no more concern.
The front entrance was another point of contention for some parents who think it's unsafe to not have more security than what's in place. They argue anyone buzzed into the building has the opportunity to roam the entire building.
School security officers said the secretary and principal have the cameras pulled up on their computers at all times and are checking them carefully before buzzing anyone in. Once someone is in the building if they do not report to the office immediately, they are picked up on one of the other 23 cameras on campus. All doors remain locked.
Some parents have been very vocal, but not all of them feel like it is their job to point out all the problems with the building in the first place. Jackson said it is a fine line. He tells his crew to keep their eyes open when they are in the schools and take notes of repairs that may not have been reported, but added that if they strayed from their project lists every day they would never complete their assigned projects.
Jackson said after the walk-through that the school is safe and his top priority is fixing the communication between teachers, parents, and himself.
"I would love for us all to work together. Don't be against each other. Let's work together to make this a great building," Jackson said.
He and Zimmerman encourage parents and teachers to write up their concerns and submit the proper work orders.