Lee County, Va. schools in 'dire need' of repairs just days before classes resume

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LEE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) - Students in Lee County, Virginia return to class next week, where work continues to fix storm damage at several schools.

News Channel 11's Karissa Winstead traveled to Lee County and learned leaking roof issues are an ongoing problem the superintendent hopes to see fixed.

Earlier this month, heavy rains took a toll on Dryden Elementary School.

"We emptied a 60-gallon trash can full of water by our library it had leaked in the library where our carpet and our books are," said Principal Mona Baker.

It's an issue Baker said has been happening for a long time, but it's gotten worse over the past five years.

"Not only do we have leaks in the roof but it also comes down our windows on the outer classrooms," she said.

The problem isn't isolated to this school. According to Superintendent Brian Austin, there are issues at all 11 schools in Lee County.

"Our buildings are in dire need of roof replacement as well as upgrades to windows, heating ventilation, air conditioning systems as well as infrastructure from electrical capacity to electronic upgrades," Austin said.

He said a facilities study conducted in 2016 revealed the issues and projections showed repairs would cost more than $100-million.

"All of our buildings are safe for occupation but they are not necessarily the most conducive to learning," he said.

He said roof repairs are being made at three schools: Thomas Walker and Flatwoods Elementary are getting partial roof repairs and Jonesville Middle is getting an entire new roof, costing nearly $700,000 from the school board's savings account.

Additional funding was requested from the Lee County Board of Supervisors to fix the roof at Lee High School and Dryden but it was denied.

"That's our next biggest priority," Austin said.

He said the current leaks in the roof will be patched until repairs are made. But in the meantime, Austin said all of the schools will be ready to welcome students when this semester begins next week as they continue to battle this ongoing issue.

"Our staff works very diligently to make sure our buildings are safe but also clean. But the leaks present a never-ending challenge so while I'm going to brag on them, it's not easy work," he said.

Austin said increased funding is needed not only to address these issues at the schools but also to increase the salaries for teachers in order to make the school system regionally competitive.