HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – A group of parents in Cabell County feel their children deserve better than what they are getting at one of the local middle schools, and they have had just about enough.
Heather Dempsey- James has two children that go to Huntington East Middle School, and she and other parents almost wish their children went somewhere else.
“I hear a lot ‘hey where does your kid go?’ and they say ‘Huntington East [Middle School] but I really wish they went to Huntington Middle School]’,” said James.
Her concern is that since the middle school opened in 2013 the district has not created any open green space for outdoor activities; its mostly concrete, and the open space that they do have behind the school is filled with rocks and dirt.
“It isn’t a space that is going to make our kids feel happy or positive about themselves, and it doesn’t make them feel valued,” said James.
They have started a petition with more than 1000 signatures that they plan to submit to the school board, and James said they would like the area developed so it can support all outdoor activities like PE, lunch, and a football field or sports complex so kids don;t have to be buses to other facilities.
They would also like the area leveled out for children with disabilities.
“We want this school to look as beautiful as the rest of the schools in Cabell County”.
Jedd Flowers, communications director for Cabell County Schools said the district currently has a short term plan to develop about 3/4 of an acre of the land behind the school with grass, an an ADA accessible ramp, and area to provide shade.
The project will cost a little more than $70,000, and they would like to have it finished by the end of the school year, but they first have to survey the area and see if the district owns all the property,
“it will make it a nice little space for the students; its not going to solve all their problems,” said Flowers.
James said it will make the area better, but she feels it is like putting a “band-aid on a major gash”.
Flowers said trying to meet the needs of the parent’s petition will be a long term process that will require a major investment.
“Any type of property process takes a long time. We have to do purchasing, planning. . . we have to look at all the needs of the whole county. What are the greatest needs,” said Flowers.
He also said the district is currently recruiting members for a steering committee, and they will be conducting a series of public meetings to see how the district can address facilities and instructional needs over the next ten years.
Out of these meetings, a Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan will be developed and submitted to the Cabell County Board of Education the West Virginia School Building Authority for their approval.
Flowers said a green space was’t created for the school when it was first constructed because of its location and lack of space they had to work with.
“First, you have to have the building located where the kids attend the school, so it has to be in the attendance area, and you look around Huntington to have a school this big and there was very little property that was available. . . and everybody knew that there was a compromise that to build this there would’t be enough parking, there wouldn’t be enough green space, but somewhere down the road the district would look at that,” said Flowers.
He said the district is willing to work with the parents, and they hope to meet their needs.
Flowers said the Cabell County School District has invested more than $50 million in improvement projects around the district over the last 3 to 5 years.