Emotions run high at Scott County board meeting about new schools

GEORGETOWN — After nearly two hours of high-volume, hot-tempered exchanges referencing everything from sex and drugs in the high school hallways to the potential for a "Columbine-like tragedy," Scott County Schools Superintendent Patricia Putty said she didn't know how to resolve the question of whether the district needed another high school.

"I'm being honest," she told an overflow crowd of about 100 gathered for a school board meeting Tuesday, "I don't know how we do it."

Putty did say she agreed with board member Haley Conway's suggestion that a committee be formed to review the district's school-construction plans and address other issues.

Emotions have been running high in Scott County since district officials laid out plans last month to build another elementary school instead of a second high school. A citizens' group started a Web site and a Facebook page, and erected a billboard proclaiming the high school had become "too big to succeed."

Rick Thompson, one of the leaders of the group, said the least the district can do is have a plan.

Board chairwoman Phyllis Young drew groans at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting as she explained that board policy would allow only seven minutes for public comment.

Parent Tiffani Lance said those rules illustrated the lack of communication that had brought the issue to a head. She said she thought the district misrepresented the information about the need for a another elementary school because that was the only outcome acceptable to administrators.

Thompson, a driver training assistant in the district's transportation department, contended that with 2,400 students, Scott Count High School was one of largest in the state.

The number of students affects everything from students' ability to get from class to class, use the restroom during the school day or even be known by name by their teachers, parents told the board.

Parent Jennifer Holbert was one of several speakers who said they feared the stress resulting from the crush of students could lead to a tragedy like the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Nearly every parent spoke of students being subjected to the use of marijuana in the school building.

Principal Frank Howatt said that his school had no more problems than other schools and that his staff worked diligently to keep things under control so students could excel in the classroom.

Putty didn't address concerns about behavior but said the only way to pay for another high school would be to raise taxes.

Lance urged the assembled parents to email the superintendent,, if they were interested in becoming part of the committee.

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