Fifth graders and their teachers would have more room to work if voters in the Sulphur Springs Independent School District approve a proposed $48.4 million bond package in May.
SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton told the News-Telegram in a recent interview that some of the money from the bond — which would pay for a new middle school east of State Highway 19 on the south side of Interstate 30 — would create new classrooms at Douglas Intermediate School. All fifth graders in the school district attend Douglas.
“We would add some classroom space to Douglas,” Bolton said. “It might be four classrooms, or it might be three classrooms and other space, such as for the counselor.”
If the bond does not pass, however, alternate measures may have to be implemented — such as dividing a classroom — to create more elbow room.
One thing’s for certain — Douglas Intermediate School will not be shut down.
The school’s status attracted some heated discussion in the days since the SSISD trustees voted March 10 to call for the bond election.
Some people posted comments on the MySSnews.com forums questioning the safety of the school and the surrounding area.
“When is our district going to realize that the area of town that Douglas is located in is a hotbed of illegal activity?” wrote one poster.”
Another wrote, “Douglas School is among one of the worst neighborhoods in Sulphur Springs, always has been.”
That brought a heated response from others, however, with some saying they attended Douglas and never felt unsafe. Still others argued that crimes are just as likely to occur in other neighborhoods.
Bolton sides with the school’s supporters.
“We know that Douglas needs to remain where it is,” she said. “We haven’t had any incidents over there, contrary to what some people might think.”
Another post on the MySSnews forum suggested that the decision to place a certified peace officer on the school grounds proved that school security was a problem.
“That wasn’t why we added a security officer there,” replies Bolton, adding that it isn’t the only campus that has an officer on duty.
“We have two security officers at the high school and one at the middle school, and then we added one at Douglas,” the superintendent pointed out. The officer at Douglas also teaches a class on drug abuse awareness, curriculum that replaced the old DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, program that was dropped in 2007.
“If we could have a security officer on every campus, we would,” Bolton added. “We’d like to do that.”
But she emphasized that no incidents spurred the hiring of an officer at the Douglas campus.
The superintendent said she doesn’t argue that illegal activities may be occurring on streets near Douglas.
“But that may be happening around any campus,” noted Miki Eddins, SSISD finance director.
Bolton also believes the vast majority of people who live near Douglas school would do anything necessary to protect the property and students.
“In fact, I think the community has real pride in that school,” she said. “I think the people who live close to that school help protect it.”
She recounted being invited to an open meeting in recent years when a local minister voiced concerns that narcotics activity was flourishing a few blocks away from the school.
“Two or three men who live in that neighborhood came up to me afterwards and said if we ever have any trouble at Douglas school to come and let them know and they would take care of it,” Bolton recalled. “I think they look out for the school.”
(This was the second article in a multi-part series examining the issues surrounding an upcoming vote on a $48.4 million bond package that would build a new middle school in Sulphur Springs Independent School District, and result in numerous other changes.)
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