Ready or not, here they come.
Nearly 1,200 Hanes and Lowrance middle school students will start at new schools Monday morning.
School officials have been working to ready the needed space at Smith Farm Elementary and Atkins High School and reopen the former Hill Middle School, which had been closed since 2012. When students arrive via brand new bus routes Monday, that building will say “Hanes Magnet School.”
School officials say they’ll be ready.
“We’re definitely on schedule, if not a little before,” said Theo Helm, a spokesman for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. “We anticipate everything (will) be ready on Monday.”
The unprecedented move was made as a response to concerns that toxic vapors from contaminated groundwater under the Hanes and Lowrance campus could make their way into the buildings. The Board of Education voted 7-2 on Feb. 10 to make the move for the remainder of the school year, choosing to err on the side of caution, several members said.
While school officials have worked to ready the spaces since the vote, teachers couldn’t actually get into their new spaces until this weekend.
Instead of being hampered by 5 inches of snow that fell Wednesday night into Thursday morning, forcing the cancellation of classes Thursday and Friday, the district was able to use the time to get a jump on the move.
By Thursday night, about half of the move had been completed. At a school board meeting, Superintendent Beverly Emory announced that the move for Hanes sixth-grade -- into Smith Farm for the rest of this school year -- was completed. Lowrance was unpacked into its new space at Atkins. Those teachers were able to get into their classrooms to unpack and set up starting Friday.
“I couldn’t be prouder of how people have hustled to make this happen,” she said.
Helm said Saturday that the move of the Hanes seventh and eighth grades would be finished that evening. Teachers will have all day today to unpack and set up. Both staff and parent volunteers were on hand to help with “unpacking classrooms, hanging up posters, that kind of thing,” he said.
The district received back test results Thursday showing there were not significant levels of harmful vapors inside the Hanes and Lowrance buildings. Levels were elevated in 14 of 31 tests of gas in the soil below the buildings, but a consultant hired by the district said the buildings appeared to have low susceptibility to vapor intrusion.
On Thursday, the board voted 7-1 to keep students off of the campus for the 2015-16 school year. Lowrance students will remain at Atkins. Pods will be placed on the former Hill site and all of Hanes will be housed there.
That decision holds for just the 2015-16 school year. The long-term future of the buildings and programs are unclear, though it’s likely Lowrance will stay at Atkins until a new school is built. Originally, the district was planning to build a new Lowrance on the current site. That plan has been scrapped; the district is looking to build now on the Paisley IB Magnet School campus. The future of Hanes is up in the air, but will likely be sorted out for the district’s expected 2016 bond referendum.
“This is not meant to be a long-term solution,” Emory said Thursday.
Long-term or not, the schools will open Monday morning.
“It’s down to the wire for teachers… and we’re ready to help,” said Tori Petty, a Hanes parent who has one child starting at Smith Farm Monday and another at Hill. Petty has been helping coordinate volunteer efforts with parents but said few volunteers have been deployed so far. “Kids are showing up Monday morning. That’s as much as I know.”
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