Pollard-McCall faces shortfall

Published 11:19 pm Monday, April 23, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell
Consider what would happen if 30 students walked through the doors of Pollard-McCall Junior High School next year and sat down to a desk in an empty room – no teacher, no books, no supervision.
"Our school stands to lose two teachers if the tax renewal doesn't pass," said Hugh White, principal at the school. "And if the renewal is not approved by voters, you can certainly forget about any capital improvements or other projects."
Pollard-McCall Junior High School, which would see a $66,000 decrease in funding, is facing what other schools in Escambia County are facing if the 3-mill county tax is not passed by voters on June 5.
Up for a vote is a 3-mill district tax and a 1-mill countywide tax. In an August vote last year, both tax renewals failed to gain enough support from voters to pass. In that election, Brewton city voters passed the 3-mill tax designated for city schools but failed to pass the 1-mill countywide tax. Neither of the two taxes was renewed by county voters.
The non-renewal of the tax would cause county schools to lose about $600,000 each year while the city school system would lose about $70,000 annually.
Pollard-McCall Junior High School, originally constructed in 1922, serves 198 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. White says the number of students increase by 30 this school year alone.
"We grew by 30 students for the 2006-2007 school year," White said. "That requires an increase of about two and a half teacher units to maintain our student/teacher ratio. Without the tax renewal, we certainly won't be able to add those two and a half teachers. As a matter of fact, with the two we already stand to lose and the two and a half we need, we could be seeing a shortfall of four and a half teachers."
White explained there are regulations in place the State Board of Education putting a limit on how many students can be housed in one class.
"We are holding our own on the average student per class regulations set by the State," White said. "State regulations say there can be no more than 18 students per class in kindergarten through third grade; 26 students per class in grades four through six; and 29 students per class in grades seven through 12. Right now we are averaging 19 students per class throughout the school. We are lucky, but that is one reason our students succeed in class."
Although teaching the leaders of tomorrow is the main function of the school, a good learning environment takes money as well. White says with the age of the school, keeping the facility in a good state of repair is sometimes a difficult undertaking.
"This school was constructed in 1922," White said. "Any building with that kind of age on it certainly will need repairs over the course of time and maintenance is at a premium."
White said the school's gym is in desperate need of repairs, but feels with the financial cuts already being experienced by the school and the potential for further cuts, the roof may have to wait.
"We have a beautiful, expensive hardwood floor in our gym," White said. "But it stands to be damaged if we can't get the roof fixed. Every time it rains, I have to call our maintenance people to come and do a little creative work
to keep the floors from getting wet."
White said if funding continues to be cut, the gym is not the only part of the school that will suffer.
"Our school stands to lose more important things than roofs and floors," White said. "We stand to lose our extracurricular incentives for the students. Things like art and music could be a thing of the past for our students if the tax renewal is not approved."
White feels strongly about the future of the students he loving calls his "children". Concerns of limits on academic and liberal arts experiences for the students are high on the list White has compiled.
"When you limit the opportunities provided to a student, you limit their potential," White said. "I don't want our students to think small because they are at a small school. In our rural communities, it is vitally important that we provide as many experiences as the large schools are able to provide. Students who have graduated from Pollard-McCall have gone on to be doctors, successful businessmen and women and our former superintendent of education graduated from this school. It worries me that if you cut out the experiences kids are introduced to, then you limit what they are capable of being in the future. If we want our children to grow to be productive members of our community, we certainly need to see that this tax renewal is passed on June 5."

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