SPRINGFIELD, Fla. (WMBB) — After three and a half years of little progress, Springfield city officials and residents want answers from Bay District Schools about Everitt Middle School.
“I really feel the east side [of Bay County] has been let down,” Springfield Mayor Ralph Hammond said. “I bet it’s a hazard to the community if somebody does get in [the school building], and the roofs are falling in and things like that. So we’d just like to see some progress.”
It’s been the same question for more than three years: What’s going on with Everitt Middle School?
Springfield’s seventh and eighth graders are now at Rutherford High School.
“If you look at Rutherford down the street, they are able to house all of the middle school students at this time, and even have additional capacity,” Bay District Schools Executive Director of Facilities Lee Walters said.
However, Mayor Hammond said that’s not good enough.
“The citizens are definitely not happy,” he said. “They talk to me quite often, but I refer them back to the school board… That bothers me more than anything, there’s nothing we can do except sit back and wait.”
Walters said even before Hurricane Michael, Everett struggled with enrollment.
“The schools, neither Everitt nor Springfield [Elementary], were at their capacity,” he said. “Just from a financial standpoint is we don’t want to have, if we can avoid it, we don’t want to have a school that basically is not responsible from a financial standpoint to operate.”
Mayor Hammond said he’s discussed a new $30 million K-8 school with Walters and Superintendent Bill Husfelt.
However, Walters said the city needs more growth before that could happen.
“To address the mayor’s concern, he is correct, we have had that conversation, but we can’t build it until the students are in the vicinity or we know they’re coming,” Walters said.
Mayor Hammond said hundreds of units are going to be developed in the city, and that the city needs schools for the families that move to the area.
“We’re trying to rebuild the city from basically the ground up,” he said. “It’s going to be beautiful when we get done. It’s going to take some time. But when the military comes in and there’s no school, they’re going to go to Lynn Haven. They’re going to go to Panama City instead of staying local, and that concerns me highly.”
Walters said BDS is in contact with FEMA weekly to discuss options for projects affected by Hurricane Michael, including Everitt.
“The safe play for us right now is to continue working with FEMA to get all of the answers, all of the concerns addressed and then have a solid plan to move forward with,” he said.
He also said they are discussing options about what’s next for the school building, whether it’s repairing Everitt, rebuilding a new facility, or leaving middle schoolers at Rutherford permanently.