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Manhole uncovering reveals 'roach city' at Lebanon High

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Roaches make their home beneath this manhole cover in the “T” at Lebanon High School.

CONNIE ESH / The Wilson Post

By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post

Wilson County Commissioners need to visit the county schools before they vote on whether to finance a new Lebanon High School, said Greg Lasater, Zone 5 member of the Board of Education, on Thursday.

“It all boils down to those kids,” Lasater said. He added that he believes the commission does support a new school, but without actually looking at the difference between LHS and the newer Mt. Juliet and Wilson Central High Schools it’s hard to believe how different the conditions are.

Lasater, who has served as student resource officer at both Lebanon and Mt Juliet, said his major concerns about LHS are safety, health, lack of technology, the physical condition of the building and the impression it makes on families thinking about moving to the area.

“The building (LHS) can’t be secure, because doors have to be left unlocked for students to change classes,” Lasater said. “Anyone could mingle with the student at class changes and no one would know they had entered the building.”

He also said local law enforcement has had to investigate burglary of the school when entry was gained through windows that won’t close.

His health concerns stem from the roaches and mold in the building. “From a health standpoint that’s bad,” he said. “You can spray every week and they just come back.

“I hate to think of students bringing food into that situation,” he said. “If they lay a sandwich down it would probably walk off.”

Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead expressed similar concerns when he toured the school earlier this week.

“If I had to work here I’d have to find a different job. I’m allergic to mold,” he said. He also said his head was aching from mold within less than an hour after entering the building.

Craighead was also very upset when one of the teachers lifted a manhole cover in the center of a hall near the cafeteria to show him a huge nest of cockroaches.

Nearby, a student told another student, “I don’t ever eat anything here. It’s just too gross.”

Further down the hall after inspecting a broken sewer pipe cover by a large square metal plate, Craighead said, the plate couldn’t keep sewer gas from coming up into the hall since it wasn’t sealed. 

Lasater also pointed out that the school is the farthest behind in technology of the four public high schools.

In fact, LHS is using Wilson Central’s discarded computers, which are better than what they had when WCHS upgraded theirs, he said.

The problems with mold have similar issues in that as soon as maintenance people get it cleaned up the rain comes and it grows back.

Lasater also pointed out that old computers, old wiring, peeling paint and frequently malfunctioning heat and air conditioning have to be hard on student and teacher morale.

“The restrooms are so bad, we have students signing out to go somewhere else to use the bathroom,” he said. “And the P.E. showers are like dungeons. They are terrible with old faucets, bad plumbing and worn out floors. The kids can’t be comfortable taking showers in there.”

Finally, Lasater talked about the impression the school makes on parents and families.

“If anyone wonders why Mt Juliet is growing and Lebanon is not all they need to do is visit the two schools,” Lasater said. “Parents don’t want to send their children to LHS.”

Then he pointed out that leaking roofs also make a bad impression.

“How is Ms. (Myra) Sloan supposed to gain the respect of parents and students when the first thing they notice about her office is the buckets to catch water from the roof sitting all over the place,” he said. Sloan is an assistant principal.

What’s more, the construction would help the local economy, Lasater said. “It takes hundreds of workers to build a school,” he said. “For 18 months to two years, those workers would be spending money on fuel and food and paying for their homes instead of losing them.”

Lasater and Craighead said they have had numerous voters tell them that if the county added a wheel tax to build a new LHS they wouldn’t mind.

“I had one lady tell me she’d be down there with the $50 for her two cars today if it would help,” Lasater said.

“No matter what you do, you’ll have some who disagree. I can handle that. What I can’t handle is kids going to school with roaches. I’d rather lose an election for doing the right thing than know six months later when the roof collapses or kids burn up in a fire I could have done something about it, but I wanted to win the election.” 

Laster noted that he often asked about the funding for construction of a new LHS and he tells those who want to know that the money must be approved by the county commission, not the school board.

Commission districts which have families zoned to attend LHS in clued District 5’s Carolyn Thompson, 6’s Kenny Reich, 15’s Mike Justice, 17’s Gary Keith, 19’s L.T. Jenkins, 20’s Annette Stafford, 21’s Eugene Murray, 23’s Bernie Ash and 24’s Paul Abercrombie. A map of county commission districts may be found online at www.wilsoncountytn.com.

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@wilsonpost.com.

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