“Never take it down.” Lynchburg School Board doesn’t vote on school closures

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 10:56 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The Lynchburg City School Board decided to continue discussing the possibility of closing Dearington Elementary School for Innovation and T.C. Miller Elementary School for Innovation during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Lynchburg City Schools presented four consolidation scenarios to the community to save money. Last week, the finance and facilities committee recommended a different scenario – closing two schools.

For more than an hour, the Lynchburg City School Board heard from parents, community members, and students about how special Dearington and TC Miller Elementary were to them.

“Let our school flag fly. Never take it down. Never take it down,” sang T. C. Miller Elementary School students.

“From show chore, musicals, tech clubs, stream programs, library student leaders, advance arts, math group, flag course, step and more,” said one speaker. “The programs that we have at T.C. Miller are amazing.”

“Our teachers did not teach us to have a low-income mentality,” said a Dearington Elementary School graduate. “They always enforced us education. They told us that we were someone.”

A study found the district had too many schools and not enough resources to take care of them. The finance and facilities committee recommended closing Dearington and T.C. Miller Elementary. Co-chair Martin Day says the committee chose the schools because they were the most expensive to operate.

“When this process is complete and after we’ve received the community’s feedback,” explained Day, “it is very likely that some hybrid of these scenarios or other options may be the final decision.”

Due to an increase in teacher pay using COVID-era funding from the CARES Act money, which ended, and a decrease in funding from the city council, there’s a 7.2-million-dollar deficit in next year’s budget.

“We’re talking dollars and cents here and there is an element of emotion and we hear that,” explained Board Member Randy Trost. “But when we’re forced to make decisions based upon dollars and cents – you don’t have much wiggle room.”

Money is also needed to improve conditions at other schools – that is why the consolidation plan began. But after more than 3 hours of discussion, a decision was not made.

“But I am not going to make a decision because I’m forced to make one by City Council,” said Sharon Carter. “My first thought is going to be for the students and also listening to the parents and other people individuals in the community.”

The school board voted to continue brainstorming solutions at its next workday session in two weeks.

You can watch the full meeting here: