Oktibbeha school deals with structural woes

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Students at East Oktibbeha County High School in Crawford began using the cafeteria again on Tuesday after the school district paid Fair Construction of Starkville $15,100 for repairs.

A late February storm severely damaged a portion of the school's roof above the cafeteria, causing water to pour into the cafeteria and kitchen floors.

Oktibbeha County School District Conservator Margie Pulley tells the Starkville Daily News (http://bit.ly/1l6ZWHY) that students ate sack lunches in classrooms for more than a week while contractors repaired the roof.

She said school staff also placed garbage cans in the cafeteria and adjacent hallway to catch roof leakage during the repair work.

"I'll be honest, we've had some issues. We're going to do what we can to have a safe, clean environment that is conducive to learning. (EOCHS) is fitting that criteria, and we have to make sure it stays that way.(backslash)

"Children do well in an environment that is clean, neat and warm. That's what we're looking for," Pulley said. "When the heat goes out or (part of) the roof blows off, you're going to have some challenges that day. But you just do the best you can."(backslash)

EOCHS's heating unit, which is reportedly between 10 and 15 years old, continues to struggle when temperatures fall below freezing, Pulley said. Since at least January, school administrators have, on several occasions, removed students from classrooms where the heating system wasn't working and combined them with other students in heated rooms.

The EOCHS campus houses students in grades 7-12. Each classroom has its own heating and air conditioning units.

The state placed the county school district under conservatorship in September 2012, primarily due to low student academic achievement, and removed the superintendent and the board. Pulley was named conservator in January 2013.

The state has since ordered Oktibbeha schools to consolidate with Starkville School District by July 2015.

There have been other expenses for the county school district.

Pulley said the district recently spent about $148,000 on three used buses to bolster its fleet because frequent bus breakdowns had hampered student attendance.

"That was a situation we had to deal with immediately," Pulley said. "We couldn't wait. We had to spend the money. We're not going to spend $250,000 on a new HVAC system that we're only going to get one winter out of (before consolidation). I will, however, make sure students, teachers and administrators have the resources, materials and resources they need. And I think we'll make it."


Information from: Starkville Daily News, http://www.starkvilledailynews.com/

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