Brumby Elementary, off Powers Ferry Road near Delk Road, at last count had 1,043 students in a building that can hold 751, said Chris Ragsdale, the deputy superintendent of operational support for the district.
The school is 282 students over capacity, has almost 20 percent of the district’s trailers and is the most overcrowded school in the district, said Board of Education member Scott Sweeney.
The students are spread between a field of trailers and two separate school buildings, and Brumby parents and teachers say they need more space to hold the extra students.
The school is on the list to be considered by the Cobb County Board of Education to be rebuilt with SPLOST IV funds. The board is expected to begin discussions on selecting the schools that will be rebuilt within the next three school years at its meeting next Wednesday, Sweeney said.
For months, Brumby parents and students have been asking the board members at their meetings to select their school for a rebuild.
Crowded buses, walking between buildings
The day begins at about 6:30 a.m., when parents start lining up to drop their students off for the school day, which begins at 7:30 a.m., said PTA President Amoni Witcher, who has two children at Brumby.
Dozens of buses are involved in multiple shifts of picking up and dropping students off at school each day, she added, as one shift couldn’t fit all of the students.
To get out of the school, the buses had to maneuver around the car lane, which often backs up onto Powers Ferry Road, stacking cars during morning and afternoon drop-offs and pick-ups,
On a recent Thursday afternoon, Witcher stood among the buses after school and watched as students were herded between the lines of trailers, bus lines and the school building.
She said every time it rained, the walkway between the trailers and building flooded, and the children were stuck walking through puddles to get to their classes.
The door into the school building is locked during the school day, Witcher said, and if not accompanied by a teacher who could swipe them into the school buildings, students run the risk of being locked out when moving between buildings to go to the bathroom, she said.
“We need one building. We shouldn’t have to constantly interrupt classes to have teachers walk kids between buildings,” she said.
Trailers, trailers and more trailers
Brumby has added 17 trailers to accommodate all of the students that attend the school and has the largest number of trailers of any school on the list to be rebuilt, Sweeney said.
Two small playgrounds are situated between the trailers and the school building, though the field space has been taken over by 17 trailers within the last few years, Witcher said.
“It’s just too many kids to be livable. They need room for a playground,” she added.
Located between dozens of apartment complexes, the school’s population is very transient, said fourth-grade teacher Kelly Filer, with many students attending school from lease-to-lease, which has made her class sizes fluctuate by about 10 students from just last year.
Filer said she was lucky, as she teaches in the newest building on campus, which was built in 1997, when 24 classrooms and a media center were added to the first building, which was constructed in 1966, Ragsdale said.
Still, many teachers complained of small classrooms, which made it difficult to teach large numbers of students.
Fourth-grade teacher Lilly Hanna showed Witcher how she had combined her classroom with another fourth-grade teacher, just to utilize the space between their two separate classrooms. Instead of each teaching a class of about 20 students, Hanna said she co-teaches close to 40 students with another teacher.
Despite the extra space, she said she would like a rebuild of the school.
Cafeteria, gym too small
Once students get into the school, they spend a lot of time waiting in lines to use the too-few bathrooms and too-cramped lunch line, as they pass between their crowded classrooms, Witcher said.
The cafeteria was painted at the end of October, Witcher said, which has not helped to fix the overcrowding issue. She pointed to the extra tables that were lined along the walls to seat more students, and counted 28 tables that were used to seat lunch shifts that day.
As she walked through the halls, packed with students staying for Brumby’s after-school program, Witcher shouted to be heard. “You can’t hear because there are so many kids in here,” she said.
Children cut between the cafeteria building and the gym, also in a separate building. The paint on the walls was peeling, water stains leaked through the ceiling, and Witcher peeled off a loose baseboard as she complained of a damp smell in the room.
“This looks worse than my gym when I was in elementary school,” she said.
Despite its size, the teachers, staff and administrators at Brumby did a great job of keeping the Title 1 school a wonderful community to go to school in, Witcher said, and referenced the different themes decorated in each classroom. One second-grade classroom was painted with ocean waves, another was entirely pink.
Upstairs in the new building, fourth-grade teacher Lazetta Hankerson had a leather couch set up in her dark-blue painted classroom, and a drum set sat in the corner. The room was called “The Hankerson Institute of Technology” and the walls were lined with computers. Hankerson said the school had access to great teaching materials, like extra computers and a Smart Board, but no room to use them.
She would like to see the district work to implement a better bus/car lane system and install a canopy between the two buildings to ensure the safety of the students immediately, she said, two issues that could not wait until a new school was built.
More than 40 languages are spoken at Brumby, Sweeney said.
“Despite facility challenges, Brumby is a remarkable school,” he added.
During the annual December International Night, a celebration of the many different cultures represented at Brumby, parents and students just cannot fit into the auditorium, Witcher said.
Sweeney has been out to the school multiple times in the last few months, Witcher said, and feels the board understands what the school’s problems are. She hopes that the school will be selected to be rebuilt at the meeting next month.