Angel Bowman cried Tuesday when she learned Knox County school leaders may suggest building three new elementary schools, including her sons’ school, Lonsdale Elementary.
Bowman called WATE 6 On Your Side last Tuesday following a natural gas leak that prompted her to pick her second and third graders from school. The school district’s chief operating officer, Russ Oaks, said the system views Lonsdale as safe and the natural gas leak, along with a carbon monoxide release from November 2018, were not related to the school’s age.
The next morning, Bowman received a call saying her sons’ school was closed for a second discovered leak.
“That terrifies me as a mother to say that it’s fixed, but it’s not fixed. The quick patches, it has to be over,” she said.
Now Bowman is convinced it’s time for a new school. She says she’s thankful to the school district, county commission, and anyone who is taking an interest in the safety of the kids at Lonsdale.
Knox County Schools will submit a five-year capital plan to the school board next month. For months, they’ve been showing county commissioners the needs for improvement and more capacity in certain areas. The plan, although not officially submitted, could include a new Lonsdale and Adrian Burnett Elementary along with a new build in Northwest Knox County.
Bowman says a “dream come true” would be to have a new school completed by 2021, an option she said the kids deserve.
“We cannot wait until 2024. We need an expedient process. If there is a way, please, I understand that money is an issue. Again, I say raise my taxes, starting now, effective immediately, raise the taxes in the community, whatever we need to do to get a school built, we can’t wait until 2024,” she added.
The timeline could also impact whether or not her boys will attend Lonsdale anymore. She hasn’t taken them back to school since the first gas leak last week. While, fortunately, this is their spring break and she has some time to think it over, she isn’t sure she’ll be taking them back at all.
She cried, “What do I do?” because she can’t homeschool and said the window for transferring them has closed, she doesn’t feel they’re safe at Lonsdale.
For Bowman to send her boys back to Lonsdale, she said she’d want an official list of what has been done to ensure safety at the school.
Knox County Schools spokesperson Carly Harrington said this in a statement:
We are in the process of developing our five-year capital plan and have had discussions around the need for three new elementary schools, including Lonsdale, Adrian Burnett and one in Northwest Knox County. A final recommendation will be made to the school board next month. In order for us to move forward with any of the three projects, it would require new bonded debt that would have to be supported by Knox County.
Evetty Satterfield, a school board member overseeing the district Lonsdale sits in, said two of the three elementary schools in the proposal, Lonsdale and Adrian Burnett, are in critical need.
“Lonsdale is not only in critical need. It’s also a health hazard for our scholars. When we’re thinking about quality education, we also want to make sure we’re creating a safe environment for our scholars to learn and what they’re inhaling, the air they’re inhaling and the quality of the building they’re in,” she added.
Satterfield added Tuesday, although she doesn’t have children herself, “I would want my child to go to Lonsdale, they’re doing great academically. It’s a family school. I’d also be cautious. I want my child to have healthy lungs growing up.”