GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County commissioners toured Page High School Wednesday as the Board of Commissioners prepares to vote on a $1.7 billion school bond referendum Thursday.
The $1.7 billion bond is part of a larger $2 billion plan to fix run-down facilities in Guilford County Schools, including rebuilding 22 schools and fully renovating 19 others. Voters already approved a $300 million bond to build eight new school buildings.
“It is a big number but if we continue to piecemeal the problem little by little we are going to continue chasing our tails,” said Guilford County Commissioner Carly Cooke.
Guilford County Commission Chairman Skip Alston and Cooke toured Page High School to get an understanding of the conditions of Guilford County Schools.
“Some of our citizens haven’t been in a classroom or school in 30 years and it’s probably the same way it was when they (were) back in school,” said Alston.
Page High School opened in 1958 and has had several upgrades since then, but some things have stayed the same.
“It’s like walking back in time,” said alum Charles Wright who graduated in 1986. “I encourage all my friends that are in town to just walk through it because it will immediately bring you back to your high school years. Although I also remind my kids that it was a lot nicer when I was there, they’ve actually installed some air conditioning in all the rooms. Now some things are better and some things are worse but it’s still the same old Page High School.
While there may be air conditioning, it doesn’t always work. The school continues to face problems with its HVAC system as do many other schools in the district.
“We came in at the beginning of this year and it was kind of tough because it was hot,” said Page High School teacher David Rogers Jr. “When it is hot, my kids want to put their heads down and it’s very hard to learn with your head on the desk.”
Rogers has been teaching at Page for more than 20 years. He said he’s seen the school change over the years and has seen the impacts of the disrepair.
“Unfortunately two years ago I came back from the summer and the ceiling had caved in on all of my belongings,” Rogers said.
Chairman Alston is planning to visit each of the schools on the bond referendum every Wednesday.
“We can’t allow the next generation of our students to be forced with the same learning environment as this generation has been forced to deal with,” said Alston, “and I’m hoping that we will be able to see that and respond accordingly.”
The plan is to completely tear down Page High School and rebuild it.
“Our families come in and our students come in and they see the same issues day in and day out and I think it’s even more frustrating for them because we want them to be able to come into school that is pristine, that is unbelievable, that they take a lot of pride in,” said principal Erik Naglee. “They do a phenomenal job, our students and our staff, regardless of our facility but it would be amazing to see what would happen with a new facility and what that would do to the morale.”
Charles Wright is part of the Page Alumni & Friends Association and while he said it will be bittersweet to see the school go, it is needed.
“It just has to happen,” Wright said. “There are things in our school that aren’t great but we need to move forward for the betterment of the kids in our community.”
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting is Thursday, December 2 at 5:30 p.m.