Surgoinsville Elementary principal hopes space shortage puts school atop ‘Phase 4’ priority list

Jeff Bobo • Feb 4, 2014 at 11:35 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — To make up for a classroom shortage, Surgoinsville Elementary School is using closets, storage rooms, teachers’ lounges and even the hallways for teaching space.

Despite the cramped conditions, the K-4 school scored straight A’s in academic achievement on the 2013 state report card.

SES Principal Susan Trent told the Times-News on Tuesday her faculty and staff makes the most of its available resources.

But as the Hawkins County Board of Education begins discussions on the proposed multi-million dollar “Phase 4” building plan, Trent said she wants to see new classrooms at Surgoinsville Elementary placed at the top of the priority list.

That why she hosted a BOE tour of the facility last week.

School board members got to see for themselves the former janitor closet and cloak room, storage closets and hallways that are now used as teaching space.

Trent said she needs a minimum of seven new classrooms, but with a population surge that’s expected to hit as early as this spring, she said the school really needs 12 new classrooms.

“We’ve utilized the two teachers’ lounges that were located on both sides of the school, and we’ve even cleaned out some storage closets for math intervention, reading intervention, counselors and different things like that,” Trent said. “Our student attendance increases every year. When I came to this school seven years ago, we were right at 400 students. Now we’re up to 436, but we’ve been as high as 450.”

Last month, the Hawkins County Industrial Board agreed to lease 85 acres at the nearby Phipps Bend Industrial Park for farming. Trent said that will bring migrant workers to the community, resulting in another enrollment surge.

Overall, SES has 25 classrooms, one of which is divided with a partition for two reading interventionists.

The three former storage closets are used for the “Project Basic” program, math intervention and guidance counselors.

The two previous teachers’ lounges are used for English as a second language (ESL) and speech. An outside modular unit is used for storage and for janitor supplies. SES has no conference space or testing area.

“There are students and staff in every single space inside this building,” Trent said. “My goal is to have new working office space so I can to return these rooms to their original purpose. I also need new classrooms because right now we’re right at the maximum allowed threshold for student/teacher ratio. If we just get a couple of more students, it’s going to take us over that mark, and we don’t have room for another teacher.”

During the BOE tour of the school last week, third grade teacher Mindy Hunley showed board members her classroom, which is covered almost wall-to-wall with desks.

“I have students in every nook and cranny, and I have a lot of students on my rolls,” Hunley told the BOE. “I feel like we’re crammed in there, and I feel bad for them (students) because there’s so many of them. It would be so much better if I could give them more individualized instruction, but with 24 kids it’s really tough.”

The BOE has a preliminary wish list for the proposed Phase 4 building and renovation projects, but the board has not yet begun workshop meetings to prioritize the projects.

The type of projects on the preliminary wish list include roofing, paving and new gym bleachers at multiple schools.

Among the high dollar items are refurbished security entrances at the nearly every school, as well as the central office and maintenance shop.

Nearly every school has a specific project listed. For example, Clinch School needs to dig a second well; Keplar School needs new floor concrete and supports in the kitchen; Volunteer High School needs to address fire marshal issues in the vocational building; and Hawkins Elementary has a proposed HVAC project that is estimated to approach nearly a half million dollars alone.

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