February 13, 2013
The Fluvanna County School Board voted Wednesday night to close Cunningham and Columbia elementary schools, effective July of this year.
It's a decision that impacts about 300 students and 20 positions.
The school district is looking to make up at least $950,000 to close a budget deficit. Closing the two schools will account for up to $750,000 of that total.
Next school year, the 300 students that would have attended Cunningham and Columbia elementary schools will be shifted to Central Elementary School, increasing the student-to-teacher ratio.
"It hurts to know that the classes are going to be overcrowded," said Fluvanna County teacher Gloria Scharer.
School leaders say adding students to Central Elementary School will not put the school over capacity, but some parents fear overcrowding could be in the near future.
"Give a few years' growth in Fluvanna County the way Charlottesville and Albemarle County goes...and the next thing you know, my kid's sitting in a stairwell, going to school in a trailer," said Cunningham Elementary parent Brian Stall.
Superintendent Gena Keller says closing a school is not an easy decision, but she says the school district cannot continue to operate the way it is currently operating.
"The reality that we face is that we have got to face such a tough budget, and so making tough decisions comes along with facing that tough budget deficit," Keller said.
Keller says closing a school means losing part of its history, but says it can also mean a new beginning. She says one idea being discussed in order to maintain the community/neighborhood feel of Cunningham and Columbia schools is to operate a school within a school at Central Elementary.
Keller says an example of this would be turning the west end of Central Elementary into a separate entrance, essentially establishing two schools in the same building, sharing common areas.
For now, Keller says the priority is meeting with staff to discuss the impact of closing Cunningham and Columbia elementary schools. An all-staff meeting is scheduled for Thursday.
Both school closures were decided in a 4-1 vote. Board member Charles Rittenhouse voted not to close either school.