Teachers and other staff were at Ewing Elementary School on Tuesday gathering their belongings in an attempt to clean out the school. For many, Ewing elementary was a home away from home.
Ewing elementary is one of three schools voted to be closed by the Lee County School Board on July 17. The other two schools were Keokee and Stickleyville.
Closing the schools is estimated to save approximately $61,000 annually in utility and maintenance cost. Structural concerns was one of the main reasons discussed for closing Ewing.
The savings will go toward dealing with a $2.1 million budget deficit that was fueled by reductions in state and federal funding and a mandate from the Virginia General Assembly to give employees a 5 percent raise to cover a required increase in Virginia Retirement System contributions.
Students from Ewing will be sent to either Rose Hill or Elydale elementary schools. It has been mentioned that K-4 students will be transferred to Rose Hill while 5-7 students go to Elydale, but nothing is official. The school had 165 students last year.
Many of the teachers at the school Tuesday expressed the emotions toward the school’s immanent closing. Rosie Crockett has taught at the school for 28 years and is now being transferred to Elydale.
“It’s like a death in the family,” said Crockett in reference to the school closing. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Lisa Barnes-Smith, another teacher at the school, said the school was very child-oriented and got the job done effectively. Ewing was one of the top performing schools in the county according to Barnes-Smith.
“A lot of the children that came here came out of the area to be here,” said Barnes-Smith. Barnes-Smith said a lot of the parents liked Ewing.
Ewing Elementary student Clint Crocket expressed his opinion of the school closing. “I don’t like it because I’ve been here since kindergarten. I didn’t want them to close it.”
Crocket is entering the fourth grade. He said he really enjoyed the way the teachers and staff treated him. He enjoyed going to school at Ewing.
Rebecca Cheek, who taught at Ewing for 13 years, had a very personal connection with the school. She attended school at Ewing when she was a child.
She taught in the same room as the teacher that inspired her to pursue the profession. The teacher passed away at the school.
“Everyday when I walk in the door and I feel like I’m overwhelmed, I can feel him here with me. I can’t take that with me anywhere else,” said Cheek.
Cheek also had a nephew pass away and there is a tree that is planted outside of her classroom window in memory of him.
“I can look out there and see his tree anytime that I need to, and I can’t take that with me.”
Cheek said that the school feels more like home than work to her. She feels like the board has torn apart a family.
“I will do the best I can for my students wherever I’m at, but my heart is broken,” said Cheek.
Principal Jerry Hounshell said that the closing of the school is devastating. Hounshell, who would have been principal of the school 26 years in October, has a child that went to school at Ewing.
He believes that many of the students will be devastated by the closing. He stated it would be a new experience for them.
Unofficially, Hounshell believes that he will be reassigned to Lee County High School as the assistant principal.
“There is not much we can do about it,” said Hounshell. “We are going to have to pick up the pieces and go to our respective schools, get involved and make the best of it.”
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.