A 2018 study was conducted on all of the elementary, middle and high schools in Guilford County. The study assessed whether or not each building was up to par. In other words, they were surveyed to see if they were equipped to meet the educational and safety needs of the students.
Each school was rated on a scale of 1-100. 22 percent of Guilford County schools were given an unsatisfactory score. That is an astounding one in five schools. 24 percent were rated poor, and only 20 percent of the buildings were given a score of excellent.
County commissioners and those on the school board met back in mid-October to assess the situation. At this point, renovations are necessary. Students whose schools scored under 70 percent should not have to endure going to a school in such inadequate conditions while their peers are at schools rated excellent. The lowest scoring school was Foust Elementary School, which was given an unsatisfactory score of 34 percent. The highest scoring schools in Guilford County were McNair Elementary School and Hampton Elementary School, which were both given soaring scores of 97 percent.
The board is proposing to close ten of the schools and rebuild twenty-seven. Nothing is set in stone just yet. Along with this comes another slew of problems. Many elementary schools were over-capacity, while many middle schools were under-capacity. Morehead Elementary School is currently operating at 215 percent of the building’s capacity. That number is expected to climb up to 265 percent by 2027.
These poor ratings seem to stem largely from gentrification. While breaking down the chart in the study, one notices a common pattern. Schools in districts of lower socioeconomic status and those that have a high number of minority students seem to have lower scores and overcrowded halls, whereas schools in affluent, white-majority areas have higher scores and are not as crowded.
Commissioner Jeff Phillips said that he would work closely with school leaders to resolve this issue. They are in the process of finalizing the report, complete with recommendations for a facilities master plan. Last spring, the $10 million budget was approved. This budget would go towards security for Guilford County Schools. After the study came out, the school board discussed how they could use the security budget to fund renovations for schools given unsatisfactory and poor scores. They plan to resolve this issue by the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
The $10 million should go towards both security and renovations. In the United States, all minors are given the equal right to education. They are able to attend public school for twelve years and not pay a dime. Even though our constitution grants them equal educational rights, that does not mean it is equal opportunity. Children born in low-income, urban areas do not have the same conditions as students born in middle class and wealthy areas. They are often given the short end of the stick. Old textbooks, outdated technology and an absence of college preparatory courses are just a few things that separate lower income schools from wealthier ones.
Each student in Guilford County should have the same opportunities, regardless of which school district they live in. It is ludicrous that the conditions of school buildings in a single county can vary so widely. The budget needs to have a significant portion allotted to renovating and reconstructing these schools so that they all meet the inspection codes. It is well-known that this issue stems from the discrepancies between socioeconomic classes, and that should not be projected onto the school system.
Each student should have the right to go to a school that is safe, at a reasonable capacity and has equal access to academic tools. One can receive a basic education from practically anywhere, but the environment in which one learns has a significant impact on their academic endeavors. There should be money set aside so that school buildings can be renovated or rebuilt as needed. To set students up for future academic success, each school in Guilford county needs to foster a learning environment that is nurturing, equipped with the necessary tools and is- most importantly- structurally sound.