Two incidents at Erwin Elementary School in recent days and signs of deterioration outside showcase the need to replace the building which is one of the oldest in the county, according to school officials.
The Erwin school dates back to the 1930s and is showing signs of its age.
Maintenance officials are now working to clean up an awning that fell on the building’s east side. The awning over stairs going into the building is now on the ground only approximately three weeks before school starts.
Inside one of the art classes in the building a ceiling fan is now on the floor after it fell out of the ceiling. On the outside of the building, several windows are broken out and covered with plywood. There are also places inside the building where water leaks from the outside, according Erwin Mayor Patsy Carson.
Both Town of Erwin and school leaders are concerned about the future of the site.
Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming described the problem as an “age problem and not a maintenance problem.”
“My concerns are that the building is not safe for our students,” Mayor Carson said. “Shiny floors don’t make it a safe place to educate our children.”
Though the building is safe for students, according to the superintendent, he worries the situation could get worse.
“What keeps me up at night is what do we do if the school is condemned and we have to move those students somewhere,” Dr. Fleming said. “We have a plan but we hope we don’t have to use it.”
Dr. Fleming said in the event Erwin was condemned, mobile units would be set up on the campus of Gentry Primary School.
He said the Erwin school maintenance officials are keeping a close eye on the situation.
“The problem we have is with a building this old is we don’t know what is going to happen next,” Dr. Fleming said.
Mayor Carson is organizing citizens to make a point to county commissioners. She also plans to address the school board.
According to Dr. Fleming, it would be up to commissioners to approve money for a new school.
“It takes money, I understand that, but I don’t understand why commissioners won’t approve money for new schools,” Mayor Carson said. “Every other municipality in Harnett County has gotten a new school and it is our turn. We are not going to stand for the way the county is treating us anymore.”
Dr. Fleming agrees.
“Those students deserve to be in a new building,” Dr, Fleming said.
Harnett County will open one new school this year on the first day of classes. That is when a new Benhaven School will open. It replaces the old school building that is approximately the same age as the school in Erwin.
Dr. Fleming said construction of a new school in Erwin is at the top of the school board’s priority list. The construction process cannot begin until county commissioners approve funding for it.
“We are ready to go, we are just waiting on funding from county commissioners,” Dr. Fleming said. “The only question is when will the commissioners approve the money.”
Mayor Carson is making leaders at different levels aware of the program. State Rep. David Lewis toured the site last week. Mayor Carson plans to invite Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart, Assistant County Manager Brian Haney and county commissioners to look at the facility.