Career Center Canopy Debate Stalls

The new Fairfield County Career & Technology Center.

The new Fairfield County Career & Technology Center.

WINNSBORO – Discussion by the Fairfield County School Board Tuesday night about whether or not to construct a covered walkway between the Middle School and the new Career and Technology Center veered off course momentarily into money spent on security systems and the Superintendent’s contingency fund, but ultimately settled with the Board tabling the matter.

Dr. J.R. Green, Superintendent of Schools, presented the Board with an array of options for the canopy, ranging from $79,000 to $186,000 (see the Aug. 14 edition of The Voice), but said his concerns involved the effectiveness of a canopy that would have to be approximately 17-feet high in order to accommodate bus traffic, as well as the how the late addition would affect the overall look of the facility.

“If the canopy is 17-feet tall, unless you get a rain that is coming directly down, will it provide much coverage?” Green said, adding, “They did such a good job constructing a facility we can be proud of, I would not want to put something that is gaudy that crosses the road that really takes away from the facility.”

An option, Green said, would be to construct a covered walkway along the sidewalk of the Middle School, and a second covered walkway along the Career Center sidewalk, leaving the 24-foot span of driveway uncovered. That option, which Board member Henry Miller (District 3) put on the floor as a motion, would cost the District $79,000, according to the bid submitted by Ventilated Awnings Corp. William Frick (District 6) seconded the motion.

But Board member Annie McDaniel (District 4) did not like the sound of that alternative.

“By not ensuring our children do not get wet in their transition from the Middle School to the Career Center, how does that affect our students?” McDaniel asked.

When Miller answered that a 17-foot-high covered walkway spanning the drive would not, in fact, ensure that students remained dry, McDaniel asked, “Are we saying the children coming from the high school are more important than the children coming from the middle school?”

“We don’t want to phrase it that way,” Miller said. “We want to make sure that any time we spend our money that it’s spent in the right way. If we’re going to build something and it doesn’t make sense and they’re still going to get wet, why throw away that money? Let’s make rational and smart decisions. That’s all I’m saying.”

McDaniel then blasted Dr. Green for his $40,000 contingency fund, “to do whatever he wants to do with and doesn’t have to bring accountability back,” she said; and the board for spending $180,000 on a security system. When Chairwoman Beth Reid (District 7) tried to steer McDaniel back onto the topic of the canopy, McDaniel concluded, “but we don’t want to spend the money for our babies so they don’t get wet?”

“If we spend money on this and it’s 17-feet high and the kids still get wet,” Miller said, “somebody is going to look at us and say that was pretty foolish.”

At Frick’s suggestion, Miller withdrew his motion and Frick followed by withdrawing his second. Frick then moved to table the discussion until all four companies bidding on the project could bring architectural renderings back to the Board for review.

In the meantime, Green said, the District had purchased 25 umbrellas, which are kept at the Middle School and used by students walking from there to the new Career Center in inclement weather. Green said there were never any more than 21 students moving back and forth between the two buildings at one time.

“And I’m proud to say, Ms. McDaniel, that I took that money out of that superintendent’s contingency fund to purchase those umbrellas,” Green said. “So it is being put to good use.”

During the canopy discussion, McDaniel also revealed that she had called the architects to question them about the canopy. After the canopy matter had been tabled, Reid asked individual Board members to refrain from calling the architects, and instead to rout their questions through District channels.

But McDaniel refused.

“That’s a violation of First Amendment rights,” McDaniel said. “If I want to call the architect or anybody else that’s doing business in this district, I will call them, so you and all the board members will know that.”

 

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