Closure of Central View Elementary is approved by school board
By Bobby Lee McCulley | May 14, 2018 6:37 am
Following a proposal presented last month to school board members and a town hall meeting with concerned parents and community members, the White County Board of Education has voted to officially close the doors at Central View Elementary School.
At Woodland Park Elementary School last Thursday evening, the normal blue and yellow colors of the Woodland Park Panthers were replaced with the blue and white colors of the Central View Bobcats, as close to 50 parents and community members filled the cafeteria for the White County Board of Education meeting about the potential closure of Central View Elementary.
During the school board’s April 12 meeting, a presentation was given by White County Director of Schools Kurt Dronebarger about a proposal that would address long-term security concerns and other issues throughout the entire school district.
In light of recent school shootings across the country, government officials and school systems have been forced to have discussions on the need to increase the security of schools. This reality was the center of the proposal presented by Dronebarger to the school board during the April 12 board meeting.
Gov. Bill Haslam recently appointed a School Safety Working Group. This committee, which included State Senator Paul Bailey, of Sparta, provided the governor with recommendations to enhance the security of school children across the state.
One of the main recommendations given by the School Safety Working Group called for placing a trained and armed person in each school. This state recommendation was discussed during a proposal presented by Dronebarger to the school board last month.
“What I want to see the school system do is to put SROs (school resource officers) in each one of our schools,” stated Dronebarger during the April 12 board meeting. “It’s still not a fail-safe, but from the governor’s work group itself – the best thing we can do is put an armed and trained person in our schools.”
Dronebarger told the school board it would cost approximately $180,000 to train and pay the SROs needed. The following years would reportedly cost less, as the cost of the initial training and certification would not be necessary each year.
The presentation given last month stated that a feasibility study was conducted for Central View Elementary School. Over the years, the student population for the school has declined. There are now only 72 students attending Central View and approximately 63 enrolled for the 2018-2019 school year. Kindergarten registration for next year only saw approximately nine students register.
The cost savings for closing Central View will be approximately $1.2 million, and none of the faculty and staff members will lose their employment because there will be room within the school system next year for their positions. It was also proposed that Central View students would be rezoned, with 40 students going to Cassville Elementary, 15 to Doyle Elementary, and 15 to Woodland Park Elementary.
Those students rezoned would not be farther than 10 miles from their zoned elementary school, according to last month’s presentation.
With this proposed closure of Central View, the school system then could fiscally fund an armed and trained school resource officer for each elementary school and fund an additional SRO for the high school, which has a split campus, and place teachers and staff at schools in need of additional educators, while saving the school system approximately $1 million annually.
On April 26, Dronebarger conducted a town hall forum to discuss the proposal of closing Central View with parents and receive feedback from community members.
During the school board’s May 10 meeting, board members spoke in detail about the pros and cons of the potential closure and voiced their support for and against the idea.
“First off, I would like to thank our director for doing his job,” stated school board member Bob Young. “It’s the director’s job to evaluate the statutes of the school system. He’s to bring us the areas that are positive and the areas that needs attention or areas that we as a board need to be made aware of, and I think he did that. I appreciate the effort that he has put into this. I’ll also say I appreciate that he went into the community of Central View and heard their concerns of his proposal. He did his job by making the proposal to us, and it’s our job to make the determination that needs to be made.”
Edd Cantrell, school board member, said, “Mr. Chairman, one of the things in prayer time and looking at the community I represent, I really feel like we are not in a financial crisis. I think Mr. D(ronebarger) has done a great job on this, but you can’t put a price on a community. We are getting funding for SROs (school resource officers) for one year. I would like to see us as a board wait for one more year and see.
School board member Dave McCulley stated, “Mr. Chairman, if I may, when looking at our policies, this is policy 2.100, ‘the board shall practice sound fiscal management procedures which guarantee maximum use of all resources provided. The Board assumes responsibility, within its financial capabilities, for providing public expense all items of equipment, supplies and services that may be required in the interest of education in the schools under its jurisdiction. In fiscal management, the board seeks to achieve the following goals: to engage in advance planning, with broad-based staff and community involvement.’ We have done that. We’ve heard from the community. We have done advance planning here. Mr. Dronebarger has done due diligence in his study. Honestly, if I’m speaking from my heart, the time to make sure you don’t have a budget crisis is before you have a budget crisis.”
Dronebarger reiterated as he had stated during his presentation last month.
“This is not something my heart wants to do, but it’s something that I think we need to do as a school system,” said Dronebarger. “I want to be on record saying I don’t want to be known as the director of schools who rallied to close a school. I want to be known as the director of schools that rallies for our whole county.”
After a series of lengthy discussions and questions, it came down to a final vote, which resulted in the approval of closing Central View Elementary School. Those voting for closing Central View included Bob Young, Janet Webb, Richard McBride, and Dave McCulley. Those voting against the closure were Edd Cantrell and Kenneth Robinson.
Since the board voted to approve retiring Central View Elementary School, this academic year will be its last. According to discussions held by the board, the school system will have to develop a plan of what to do with the Central View school building.
Dronebarger noted that maintenance and security would remain ongoing at the property to ensure the upkeep and safety of the facility until a plan is put into place.