Parents of children that would have attended the Intermediate School got answers Monday night as hundreds of families gathered in the San Jacinto Auditorium for informational meetings held by the Ennis ISD.
Superintendent Dr. Eddie Dunn introduced himself to the audience and joked that he had only been on the job since Dec. 2006, but that it had turned out to be a “fun” job so far.
He then gave the crowd a brief explanation of what had been happening that caused the decision to not allow students at the Intermediate campus before fielding questions from concerned parents. According to Dunn, the school has had problems since it was built due to the way the foundation was laid out.
“The way that the foundation was laid out has caused problems with the building for the last 10 years. The engineer's recommendations were not taken at the time of construction and has led to the issue that has been the on-going problem since the very beginning - moisture from the ground causing structural damage to the building,” Dunn said.
He went on to explain that even though the district had been awarded a settlement from litigation regarding the improper construction and that the money had been used to secure walls within the building, it was not enough to keep fixing additional problems that arise.
To maintain a safe environment for students and staff, the district has an engineering firm evaluate the structure every summer prior to the beginning of classes and this year, there were several places where cracks in the foundation and walls had become a serious concern.
“The engineers discovered cracks in the west wall in the gym and the corridor that leads to the gym as well as areas in the kitchen and music area that were significant and of a major concern. They evaluated those areas to see what could be done to remedy the situation, but unfortunately, that would take more time than we have before classes start and possibly more than the first semester,” he said.
According to Dunn, the engineers made several evaluations of the facility before coming up with their recommendation to not allow students in the building, but the process took time.
“I know a lot of you are wondering why this announcement f the new school year and believe me, I wish this was only the beginning of June myself, but really there is no good time for this decision. The process with the engineers took time due to scheduling conflicts and when the school was evaluated, we had to drill several good sized holes in the concrete to get a look underneath to fully evaluate the issue and all of that takes time,” Dunn said.
He then went on to outline for parents the plan that will see the students dispersed to area schools within the district and find some in temporary quarters until portable classrooms can be set up.
The plan is to send most students entering the fourth grade back to the elementary campus that they came from with the fourth grade teacher they would have had at the Intermediate School. The students that have a shared curriculum and team teachers, will still have that opportunity and will be housed at the Sixth Grade Center.
Children that will enter the fifth grade will for the most part, start classes at Tabernacle Baptist Church while they wait for the district to finalize arrangements for portable classrooms to be set up at the Sixth Grade Center. The students attending classes at the church will also be taught by fifth grade teachers and will have a principal on-site. The district hopes to have the portable buildings ready for the students to move into within the next four weeks.
“The district has worked very hard on this situation and we have spent many hours trying to come up with the best possible plan for our kids to receive a quality education in a good setting and we think this is a solid plan. We ask that as parents you bear with us for a little bit and trust that we will continue to work very hard on this and please don't hold us to perfection. We will do out best to meet the needs of the kids to the fullest extent possible, but perfection is not going to be achieved. If you have concerns, please don't hesitate to let us know, but we ask that you hang in there for just a little bit and see how things will work before taking issue with things,” Dunn said.
Other areas of concern for parents were with transportation changes, availability for programs the children previously has access to and when they would know for sure which campus their child would attend classes.
Dunn assured parents that some issues such as transportation were still in the process of having details ironed out but that information would be forthcoming as well as which campus the students would attend. The issue he stressed would not see any change for the students were the programs, such as language, gifted and talented and special education classes.
“We have worked incredibly hard to provide the students the same quality education they would have received at their regular school by not cutting any programs from the agenda. We want to assure parents that while the location for the students to learn will change this year, the quality of the education the students will receive will not be altered or will not suffer because of this change,” he said.
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