Hanes and Lowrance look forward to stable school year

Hanes and Lowrance look forward to stable school year
August 20
00:00 2015

In above photo: Hanes Magnet School (Photo by Todd Luck)

Displaced schools may have new future homes with school bonds

The staffs, parents and students of Hanes and Lowrance Middle school are looking forward to a more stable school year with new accommodations at their current locations.

Hanes is a math, science and pre-engineering magnet school, and Lowrance is a special needs school. They shared a joined building and campus on Indiana Avenue before being moved abruptly during last school year.

The site has groundwater contamination. The city water at the school was safe, but concerns about vapors from underground contamination caused many parents to pull their children from classes, even though tests showed the vapors to be within safe levels.

On Feb. 11, the school board voted to move the schools. The move took place on March 2. It was disruption for a student population that can find change challenging at Lowrance, but Lowrance Principal Peggy Dickey said the faculty made it work as smoothly as possible.

“It brought our faculty closer together because we had to move in such a short period of time,” she said.

Dickey said teachers used it as a teaching opportunity, talking with them and giving them presentations on the move. They held a scavenger hunt to let students get used to the new facility, which is a section of Atkins Academic and Technology Magnet School. Dickey said that Atkins has been a wonderful host.

Lowrance, which has 148 students this year, continues to operate as its own school, with its own office and entrance, but using some of the same facilities as Atkins students, such as the cafeteria. A new pod with seven mobile classrooms was added, so there is now room for all of Lowrance’s classes.

“We’re excited about being here and able to start the school year in a school we’re going to finish the year in,” said Dickey who served as Lowrance’s assistant principal before becoming principal this school year.

Mashica Jefferson, Lowrance PTA president whose son is in eighth grade at the school, said she appreciated all the new accommodations for the school at Atkins this school year, such as improved parking and a new playground. She said the mobile classrooms will help greatly since a lack of space caused classes to have to share a room at the same time.

However, she hopes to soon see a new school built for Lowrance.

“We don’t want them to forget we need a new school,” she said.

A replacement for the aging Lowrance building was originally part of the 2006 bond issue proposal but was cut from the final package. It is now among the top priority projects in all four versions of a new bond proposal before the Board of Education, which will be on the 2016 ballot if approved. Hanes, which has more than 900 students, moved its seventh and eighth grades to the old Hill Middle School, which had sat empty since Hill was merged with Philo Middle School in 2012. Due to lack of space, sixth graders were sent to a vacant section of Smith Farm elementary, a relatively new school that opened in 2013. Elective teachers and administrators drove between the two schools.

This year however, with two new pods and four new trailers, every Hanes student and teacher will be at the old Hill Middle location, which now bears the Hanes name.

“We certainly had a disruption with the move and this school year is a fresh start that allows us to refocus on the things we want to do in the classroom,” said Hanes Principal Melita Wise.

Wise said Hanes will also have new leadership this school year, as she is leaving to become the principal of North Forsyth High School.

PTSA President Kimber McCracken said that even with the pods, the school is too small for the Hanes’ student body. She said the PTA is working to improve the facility but is making sure anything they do is mobile and can be moved to a permanent location for the school, which is another high priority item in the proposed school bond.

McCracken said she was glad to have the controversy and subsequent move behind the school. It became a divisive issue among parents, with many like her feeling it was safe. She said the controversy spilled over into the students, with her daughter getting in arguments with other students over the school’s safety. She was also glad, after her daughter went to class at Smith Farm last school year, that the entire student body is now together.

“One location, one family, it just makes it so much easier,” she said.

Eighth grader Torey Bailey said he didn’t want to leave the old building, as it had a lot of history to it such as NBA Star Chris Paul attending middle school there and playing basketball at Hanes.

“We have a lot of memories at the old building,” said Bailey.

He said students were still getting used to the smaller space at the Hill location. He said he continues to enjoy the curriculum at Hanes, including science experiments and creating 3-D designs and is considering continuing the science track in high school at Atkins.

A possibility being considered as part of the bond is moving Hanes to the current location of Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy (WSPA). They would join the middle school students already there for a new Hanes Middle. Currently there are talks with Winston-Salem State University about moving WSPA’s college prep high school students to a location there. The current location of WSPA is on Cameron Avenue in a building that housed the original Atkins High School, one of the city’s “Big Four” black high schools during segregation.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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