ENNIS - Parents of children who would have attended Ennis Intermediate School received some answers Monday night during informational meetings at San Jacinto Auditorium.
Ennis ISD has closed the intermediate school indefinitely due to structural concerns.
Superintendent Dr. Eddie Dunn introduced himself to the audience and joked that he had only been on the job since December 2006, but that it had turned out to be a “fun” job so far.
He then gave the crowd a brief explanation of what prompted the decision to not allow students at the intermediate campus before fielding questions. According to Dunn, the school has had problems since it was built due to its foundation.
“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 ongoing problem since the very beginning, moisture from the ground causing structural damage to the building,” Dunn said.
He said the district had been awarded a settlement from litigation regarding the improper construction and the money had been used to secure walls within the building, but 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.
“(This summer) 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 a major concern,” Dunn said. “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.”
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 came so close to the beginning of 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,” he said. “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.”
He outlined the plan that will see some students dispersed to other schools within the district and others 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 who have a shared curriculum and team teachers will be housed at the Sixth Grade Center.
Children who 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,” Dunn said. “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 our 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 transportation changes, availability of programs the children previously had access to and when they would know for sure which campus their child would attend.
Dunn said some issues, such as transportation, were still being formulated but that information would be forthcoming as well as which campus the students would attend. He stressed that students in programs such as language, gifted and talented and special education classes would not see any change.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The district will hold open house meetings from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at all the locations where intermediate students will attend classes. To know which location to visit, parents can check the list of students and locations that will be posted on the front doors of the intermediate school.