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Johnson Elementary PTA VP wants ‘better facilities’ for school

By Gary Lloyd

PINSON — The vice president of the PTA at Kermit Johnson Elementary School in Pinson wants “better facilities” for the students, she said last week.

Christy Rainwater, a Pinson resident, said she spends a lot of time in Kermit Johnson Elementary School as part of her role as PTA vice president and the editor of the yearbook. Rainwater, who has helped with lunch duty at the school, said the cafeteria and gymnasium are not adequate.

In September, the Jefferson County Board of Education approved a five-year capital plan, a prioritized, 42-item list of plans for capital projects to potentially be funded between the 2014 fiscal year and 2018 fiscal year. The fifth item on the list was a projected $2.3 million renovation for Kermit Johnson Elementary School. The funding year would be 2015, and the renovation would be for a new cafeteria to accommodate increased enrollment.

Kermit Johnson Elementary School in Pinson
photo courtesy of Jefferson County Schools

That project is now “on hold” until closer to the end of this fiscal year, according to Jefferson County Board of Education New Construction Department Director Rafael McDaniel. He said the cafeteria is connected to the gym, and in order to expand the cafeteria’s seating area, the initial thought was to construct a new gym. He said the remaining gym space could be used for a large meeting room, choral room or health room.

The cost of construction was about $800,000 more than the original estimate, McDaniel said. He said there is “hope” that sufficient funding could be secured closer to the end of this fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.

In the meantime, McDaniel said alternative solutions are being reviewed, including building a new “standalone” cafeteria complex in lieu of a new gym. Decisions about a “standalone” cafeteria could be made closer to the end of the fiscal year.

“It appears that this alternative will be more cost effective and solve the problem with a lack of space,” he said.

Johnson Elementary’s enrollment is about 800 students. Rainwater said the cafeteria was built for approximately 300 students. She said lunch starts around 10 a.m.

“Imagine yourself eating lunch in a cafeteria built for a school with around 300 students when Kermit Johnson now has almost 800 enrolled there,” Rainwater said. “They have to start lunches at around 10 a.m. so everyone can have lunchtime.”

McDaniel said additional classrooms were built several years ago for increased enrollment, but additional space was not provided for the cafeteria or gym. He said Chalkville Elementary School experiences “identical problems,” though Chalkville’s situation is a “little worse.”

“Presently, the staff at Johnson Elementary does an excellent job of working within these limited spaces, but we do not like the idea of students having to eat lunch early and late,” McDaniel said.

Rainwater encouraged parents of Kermit Johnson Elementary students to ask the Jefferson County Board of Education questions.

“Email them. Call them. Don’t let them forget about us and our school’s needs way out there on the other side of Pinson,” Rainwater said. “Hold the powers that be in our county responsible for the things they said they’d do for our school.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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