The Harnett County Schools superintendent has asked for inspectors to look over Erwin Elementary School to see if it is safe for children to return to classes there Aug. 27.
Dr. Aaron Fleming sent a letter to Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart requesting county building inspectors and fire marshals examine the school after an awning fell outside the school and a ceiling fan fell inside the school over the weekend.
In addition, Harnett County Schools has hired an industrial hygienist to do a survey for water and air quality and organic growth.
“We’re waiting on those actions. Do we take corrective action or take some other action?” Harnett County School Board Chairman Bill Morris said. “We’re very concerned about the conditions of the building. Time has taken its toll. Over the last 50 years the building has been in bad shape. We have to make sure it is safe before children go back inside.”
“Kids come back the 27th. It’s late in the game and we’re going to have to hustle. Things have started falling out of it and we have to jump on it. Things have to be addressed. We’re not going to put children back in the building until we get a clean bill of health,” he said.
“If there is a problem, it will have to be corrected. If it can’t be corrected, we have to look at alternative situations. The jest is, we’re on it and we won’t know for a couple of days.”
He said the awning may have collapsed because of weather conditions and while that’s concerning, it’s not as bad as the ceiling fan.
“The ceiling fan concerns me because that was in an instructional area. The superintendent said there were other ceiling fan worries and they have been taken out of the building,” Mr. Morris said.
The school board has made building a new Erwin school its top priority. The funding for that has to come from county commissioners. The county has just financed a new Benhaven school and has yet committed to a new Erwin school. The school board wants to tear down the old school, build a new one in its place and move the children at Gentry Primary into it.
Mr. Morris said this issue is not about building a new school, although one is needed.
“We’re at the point this is a separate issue from building a new building. We’re going to have to decide whether to let children go back in there or not. Right now we’re dealing with the safety of the children first,” Mr. Morris said.