Parents want renovations at Stoner-Thomas for students with disabilities

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — Davidson County parents are concerned a school for special needs students is not entirely accessible for those with disabilities.

About one hundred students with special needs attend Stoner-Thomas School in Lexington, located on County School Road.

It is across the street from Davidson County School System’s central offices.

“Over the last three decades, the children at this school have gone overlooked,” said Ira Matney. His son attends Stoner-Thomas and has autism.

There are several major concerns he and other parents have about the school.

The first is the lack of accessibility on the playground and low-quality equipment that is not adapted for children with disabilities.

“You have children that will roll up on this playground in wheelchairs and they cannot access it. They just look at it,” explained Jamie Hallman. Her twin daughters also have autism and are in different classrooms at Stoner-Thomas.

The school has children from kindergarten to high school, with ages ranging from five to 22 years old.

There are two mobile classrooms in the back of the school and parents are frustrated there are no covered walkways from the trailers to the main building.

“If it happens to be raining, [my son] has a lot of sensory issues so if he gets wet the first thing he wants to do is take his clothes off. And it’s very uncomfortable for him,” said Matney.

The school has at least two bathrooms that do not seem wheelchair accessible, Matney added. The one in the gym has a step up into the single stall, which would be challenging for anyone in a wheelchair to use.

Because there is no cafeteria or lunch room at the school, about 90 of the students are loaded onto buses and travel about two miles to Davis-Townsend Elementary School at least four days a week for lunch. About 10 of the students stay at Stoner-Thomas to eat.

Hallman says it’s not necessarily the distance that concerns her. It’s the fact that loading and unloading children in wheelchairs and with other disabilities takes time.

“It can take an hour and a half,” she said, pointing out it cuts into instructional time. “There’s already a 45 minute deviation from educational instruction. We would really like to push for a cafeteria here. That would take care of that 45 minutes.”

Unfortunately Hallman said lunch itself has its own challenges.

“Sometimes they don’t get what’s on the menu because they eat after the other students and staff at Davis-Townsend. And when you don’t serve some of our kids what’s on the menu and what they’re expecting, you can expect to get some difficult behaviors,” she pointed out.

County Commissioner Todd Yates supports funding for Stoner-Thomas renovations and he called it a priority for the Davidson County Board of Commissioners.

“I think [The Board of County Commissioners] would like to see participation from the school board, which has a fund balance they feel like could split some of the cost here. But the consensus of the board I believe is to move forward with this,” he said.

Yates pointed out, a quarter-cent sales tax is coming up to help build a new school in the northern part of the county.

“But to me I would like to take care of some these needs [at Stoner-Thomas] before we actually go up there and build a brand new school,” he said. “It’s time to take action here.”

Yates would also like to form a working capital improvements committee with representatives from the school system and commission. He believes they should meet monthly to identify needs at all schools and address funding requests early on.

Yates believes needed renovations at Stoner-Thomas would be in the two or three million dollar range.

Parents plan to fight for every penny. “Because a lot of our children, they can’t speak for themselves. So we have to be the voice for them,” promised Matney.

Matney, Hallman and the School’s PTO President have already talked to the Board of Education and planned to address the Davidson County Board of Commissioners at a meeting Tuesday night.

Stoner-Thomas students have hosted a car and bike show for four years to raise money for playground equipment.

Principal Jonathan Hayes also pointed out a greenhouse the students operate and sell produce from.

The principal said the school was built in the 1950s and it doesn’t seem like it’s had major renovations in recent years. He said it did get a new roof a few years ago and the parking lot was re-paved in the last year.

Parents have started a Facebook page to encourage community support:

https://www.facebook.com/RevivingStonerThomas

“We’re just asking for our children to have the same facilities that every other child in the county has,” said Hallman.

4 comments

  • Teresa

    I completely agree!!! My daughter went to this school just a couple of weeks ago to do her observations for her college class. When she told me she had to wait to come to the school because they didn’t have enough buses to get all the kids there at the same time I thought that was crazy. Then she told me that they had to load all the kids up again to take them to another school for lunch I could not understand why they were having to do this. She told me they didn’t have a cafeteria and I thought that was the, excuse me but, dumbest thing I had ever heard of! Why would you not have a cafeteria for the people who need it the most?! Honestly, I didn’t even know this school existed until my daughter did her observations and I have been to the Davidson County school’s main building several times. I knew there was a school there I didn’t realize it was a special needs school but of all the schools and students I would think these are the ones that should be taken care of first. If we aren’t taking care of our most vulnerable children then what good are we?! I hope the school board will pay attention now and give the funds needed for Stoner-Thomas. I also hope the people of this county will do what it takes to make sure these children get what they need!!!

  • Roger

    I have a grandson that goes there and he has been there since he was in first grade. He is 17 years old and will be 18 years old this year. Ihave been out to the school more then once to help with field days and other things that the school has for these kids. They go to Davis-Townsend for lunch and I have seen them loading the kids on the buses and it dose take time to load them.and they return to Stoner Thomas between 1:15 to 1:30pm. Then it time that they startgetting ready to school by 2:30pm. These kids deserve the playground and a Lunch room at their school and they deserve the respect just like the kids at the other schools in Davidson County. This school has been overlooked for years and it is time that the county start looking at this.

  • Eric Upton

    When this school is upgraded and the new school in the northern end of the county is built will the sales tax increase be rescinded? Will the sales tax increase be implemented in such a way as it can only be used for school projects? Once the hand is in your pocket it’s hard to get it out. Based on 2012 tax revenue the increase should net an extra 1.7 million in sales tax from the residents of Davidson county. That quarter cent doesn’t seem so small now does it?

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