Teachers protest maintenance issues at Arthur F. Smith

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Arthur F. Smith Middle Magnet School teachers protested for change Monday, many are upset about a recent proposal to close the school.

Image Source: KALB

Back in March the Rapides Parish School Director of Physical Plant presented the school board with three options to fix mold and maintenance issues at the school. Two options were to fix heating and cooling systems. The other option was to close the school, moving students across the street to Peabody High School.

"We deserve to keep Arthur F. Smith, it's a community school," said Peabody junior Martavious Ellis. "It's one of the hearts of Jones Street."

Generations of Smith students took a stand alongside about 20 teachers who didn’t go into work.

"We don't mind a temporary movement, but do like you did with other schools," said Sterling Barber Shop owner, and former Smith student, Sterling Brown. "Bring in portable buildings, keep the kids on campus and build the morale. Let them know you are thinking about them instead of moving them. Now, they are feeling defeated."

Maintenance presented two other options to refurbish or replace air handling units in the school or add direct exchange heating and cooling. They also added other needed repairs to that including security updates, electrical upgrades, and weatherization. The costs for each option reached well over $2 million:

Option 1, Refurbish air handling unit: $2,353,934
Option 1, Replace air handling unit: $3,003,735
Option 2, Install direct exchange heating and cooling: $2,535,200

But, option 3, to relocate Arthur F. Smith, would save the district $663,697.

"We find money for everything else," said Arthur F. Smith Paraprofessional Carletha Walker. "We find schools that have had issues, those issues have been fixed and those kids are back into those schools. All we're asking is for Arthur F. Smith to have the same thing. We want our issues fixed, we want our schools open."

After seeing photos of the issues and sitting through meetings, parent Jack Henton is concerned.

"Water is just intruding into the school every time we get small rains," Henton said. "Toilets are backing up. Tiles were just corroded with mold and different things of that nature. These are all pictures that teachers and students were taking."

Henton just wants to make sure teachers and students are safe.

"Where the school is an extension of their home and so they are not going into a nasty restroom," Henton said. "They aren't going into the cafeteria and wondering if the food is safe to eat."

All three options will be discussed Tuesday at the Rapides Parish School Board meeting, starting at 5 p.m.

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