Kingsport Times News
JONESVILLE, Va. — Despite overwhelming objections from students, parents, teachers and community residents in attendance, the Lee County School Board voted Tuesday to close three of its elementary campuses through consolidation beginning next school year.
The board voted 3-2 on a motion by Michael Twigg, seconded by Don Williams, to adopt the closure plan, with chairwoman Debbie Jessee casting the deciding vote. Kyle Chadwell and Ty Harber cast the two naye votes.
An overflow crowd who attended a public hearing held prior to the meeting reacted emotionally to the final decision, with dozens yelling disapproval and walking out of the room once the plan was adopted.
The closure plan, which goes into effect when class begins next month, will see Keokee students transferred to St. Charles while the student body at Stickleyville will be combined with Elk Knob.
Students who attended Ewing will be sent to either Rose Hill or Elydale elementary schools.
The consolidation is expected to save roughly $61,000 annually in utility and maintenance costs alone. Further savings are expected to be realized once staffing levels are finalized.
In addition to those financial considerations, school board members also cited structural concerns as reasons for closing the campuses, with Ewing Elementary being singled out in particular.
School board officials said those savings would be combined with other reductions to help deal 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.
The school board received $4.9 million in local funding from the Lee County Board of Supervisors — an amount that was $300,000 over state requirements – to help close the gap. Officials said the system also reduced or eliminated a number of line items and absorbed 18 previously funded positions.
Further savings came from 45 classified and non-classified personnel committed who took early retirement.