(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler)
Following about an hour-long discussion about the pros and cons of SSA, Gray changed topics, acknowledging he knew several people were there to talk about air conditioning problems at Southside.
Sincere but direct in his approach, Gray told parents and teachers that a new air conditioner for their gym -- the only school gym in Bedford County without an air conditioner -- was not in the budget.
"I live in a budget, and a new air conditioner is not in the budget," said Gray.
However, Gray did say he hoped to amend the budget so that air conditioning can be purchased. Five votes are needed on the board of education to make that amendment happen, and Gray has two so far, including the vote of board member Glenn Forsee, who was also present for last night's PTO meeting.
"I'm in the kid business, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart," said Gray. "I don't want to have to come back here next fall and tell kids it's too hot for them to play in the gym."
The PTO is in the process of forming a parent committee that will address additional structural and physical needs that must be addressed at the outdated primary school.
"Air conditioning was an extreme problem this fall," said Shirley McGee, who's been actively involved in the school for many years as both a parent and teacher. "But there are many more physical problems that need to be addressed at this school, and we would like to invite you to come back in the future and listen to the committee once it's formed."
Parents and teachers listened carefully and asked detailed questions when Gray addressed the school attire issues earlier in the evening. The board will vote on SSA in February.
"This is only a draft, a starting point," said Gray. "This is not a done deal ... we are here tonight to listen to your input."
One teacher expressed her concern that the needs of six-year-olds are different than those of 16-year-olds. Jeans are much tougher than khaki pants, which, as much as the younger kids play, wouldn't last long.
"My opinion is that we need standardized school attire for grades six through 12, but there is no evidence yet to support passing this for the younger kids."
Forsee said he thought, as of right now, making suggestions as to what the younger kids should wear would be the best idea.
Other issues addressed in regard to SSA were issues related to the cost of standardized attire, the safety of students (are kids in SSA less likely to bring weapons into schools?), and overweight students (will they be too self conscious to wear shirts that have to be tucked in?).
Gray and Forsee assured parents and teachers that all of their concerns would be addressed to the board and taken into consideration prior to the vote in February.