Harper Elementary Principal Janene Ashley and the school's teachers know first-hand the problems facing their school and the 525 students in kindergarten and first grade who call the 44-year-old building their educational home.
During a meeting last week with staff, parents and two school board members, parish superintendent of education Dr. Dan Rawls outlined plans for a committee to study those issues. Bottom line of the study: Will
Harper continue to open its doors or will students be relocated to another facility?
"Can you make (the current Harper) functional? The architect may say yes, but at what cost and for how long," Rawls explained, addressing one of several problems he said a committee will study. "And if we can do it, where are you going to put these kids while it's being done?"
If the current building is updated or remodeled for its current student population, new codes must be met, Rawls said. The same is true if another location which has been closed, such as the old Northwest Louisiana
Technical College (trade school), is selected as the new site of Harper Elementary.
"The law says if you close a building and open it back up you have to meet all the new codes," he said. "The codes are different for older students and young ones. You just can't go over there and open the doors...everything has to be methodical with the professionals on board."
Harper is considered by the fire marshal as a safe complex, "...but it would not meet some of the standards of the newest codes," Rawls said.
J.E. HARPER ELEMENTARY WOES:
While preparing for the committee to begin work, Harper principal Janine Ashley and her staff prepared a list of concerns regarding Harper Elementary. Several from that list, but not all, include:
>>Classrooms: Noise is terrible. It is detrimental to academics. Classroom size: some are large while others are tiny. Partitions used as walls are not safe. Not enough electrical outlets; multiple extension cords are used to get electricity around rooms. No way to call office; one room does not have an intercom. Not enough water source. Students cannot clean up after any kind of messy activity. Teachers cannot regulate temperature in classrooms; AC units are outdated. Only four classrooms have windows.
>> Bathrooms: Not enough for 525 students: students have wet on themselves while waiting for a bathroom. Urinals are not positioned for five- and six-year-olds.
>> Outside: Not enough parking. One driveway for teacher parking and the car line. Traffic backs up down Germantown Rd. for student pickup. One water fountain for 150 students when it works. Front entrance not handicap accessible; use a homemade wooden ramp.
>> Cafeteria: Four cafeteria shifts are used for lunch, from10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. For the number of students, two food lines are needed. Very restricted for special lunches, registration, parent meetings and guest speakers. When a guest speaker is scheduled, 400 students must sit on the floor.
>> Other issues: Doors too heavy for students to open in case of emergency. In case of tornado, 425 students must descend a steep stairway. An outside temporary building is in poor condition; no covered walkway to school building, no restroom except one outside main building. No inside play area. Open glass area in front of school makes security difficult. Reading coach uses custodian closet as office.