August 19, 2022

Education For Live

Masters Of Education

One of three eyed to close, speakers push the benefits of Meadville Elementary | Education

6 min read

Safety and transportation concerns and the benefits of community schools were brought to Halifax County School Board Thursday evening at a public hearing on the possible consolidation of schools.

Meadville is one of three schools the board has been considering closing. The other two elementary schools they’ve considered closing are Sinai Elementary and Clays Mill Elementary.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg told the close to 100 individuals in attendance that while he understands the love of a community school, they have a challenge to discuss.

The challenge? Capacity issues due to a declining enrollment.

Dr. Lineburg told those in attendance that the school system has lost about 500 students since 2014.

He went on to explain that Meadville Elementary currently has 175 students enrolled, but according to the Virginia Department of Education standards for instructional capacity, it could accommodate 324 students.

If they were to close Meadville, Sinai and Clays Mill, the proposed plan would be to renovate Sydnor Jennings and Scottsburg elementary schools at a cost of roughly $37 million.

If the school board were to move to a four-school model, there would be approximately $2,307,500 in personnel savings, according to Lineburg, and more than $38 million of future facility costs would remain.

He also explained that they would maintain a class size of approximately 20 students to one teacher, and with a four school model, they’d be able to expand services such as music, art and speech therapy.

During his presentation Lineburg told the crowd that there may be other possibilities out there, and if anyone has “something better, certainly share it.”






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Meadville Elementary principal Kevin Neal holds up notes from his students on what they like about their school at Thursday’s public hearing on the possible consolidation of elementary schools.




Following the superintendent’s presentation, Meadville principal Kevin Neal took the podium to tell the board that they would be “hard pressed” to find a place more nurturing than their school.

He then went on to read notes from students who were asked to share what they like about Meadville. Some spoke of the nice teachers and how they’ve helped them learn and others talked about finding forever friends.






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Jimmy Epps talks about how community schools are part of the heart of a community during a public hearing on the possible consolidation of elementary schools at Meadville Elementary Thursday.




Several engineers took the podium during the public hearing, the first being Jimmy Epps, who said, “we can make anything work on paper,” so he wasn’t going to argue the numbers, but instead focused on the heart of the community.

He said over the years that community was centered around a common crop, a country store and Meadville Elementary.

The store is closed, and Epps said the church is not the cornerstone anymore, “but this school remains.

“This is the heart of this community, and it’s your job to protect it,” said Epps, who urged the school board to “not rip the heart” out of the community.

“And, if its sick, nurse it to health,” he added.

Erin Shaughnessy, representing the PTO (parent – teacher organization), agreed with Epps saying if they remove the school, they’re taking the heart out of the community.

“These small communities in the county give it the identity it has,” said Shaughnessy. She spoke of the fire departments and ladies auxiliaries that have been hurting, and she warned the school board that if they close these schools, then parents will leave.

“Show them what’s important. Bigger doesn’t mean better,” said Shaughnessy, who pulled her children from a larger elementary school to go to Meadville Elementary.






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Melissa Fields speaks about how she feels comfortable sending her son Carson, who has type I diabetes to Meadville Elementary.









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Mary Beth Cosby, who is joined by her daughter Brooklyn, talks about the rural secondary roads students have to travel and the strong foundation students receive at smaller elementary schools during a Thursday public hearing.




Some parents and guardians like Mary Beth Cosby, Chris Moore and Melissa Fields spoke of the one-on-one attention and beneficial experiences their child has received at Meadville Elementary.

Fields son Carson has type I diabetes, and Fields said she doesn’t worry when she sends him off to school.

Moore’s nephew Cameron has blossomed since being at the primary school earning A/B honor roll and has come out of his shell.

Cosby said she didn’t want to send her daughter Brooklyn to a larger school because it takes out the personal attention teachers are able to give.

“She would be another student in a big building,” said Cosby.






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Dr. Bridgett McDowell, a local dentist who attended Meadville Elementary, speaks of discipline concerns at larger schools during a public hearing on the possible consolidation of elementary schools.




Another speaker, Wanda McDowell, spoke of the strong solid foundation children are able to receive at a smaller elementary school, and warned that a larger class size would lead to discipline problems.

She also reminded the board that Meadville Elementary, and other smaller schools, were built to accommodate grades kindergarten through seventh, not through fifth and that Halifax County is the fourth largest county in Virginia.

Wanda also noted that Pittsylvania County has 10 elementary schools, Rockingham County has 15 and Bedford has 13.

“Please reconsider this plan,” she asked of the school board.

Several speakers, including Della Cunningham, said she didn’t have to worry about her children’s safety at Meadville.

She said all the staff knew her children, and she said a smaller school allowed her to not worry about COVID-19 as much as a larger school, like the middle school does.

Dr. Bridget McDowell also spoke about safety at the public hearing saying her son was choked on the playground at South Boston Elementary, and she said she was told that there are over 100 children on the playground at the South Boston school with a teacher and a teacher’s aide.

She also said her son was scared to leave the classroom alone when he attended South Boston Elementary as a kindergarten because he was scared he would get lost, as others in his class had.

When her son was told that the school board was considering closing Meadville Elementary, he told his mom, “please don’t send me back to that jail,” McDowell relayed before going on to talk about the high teacher turnover rate at larger elementary schools.

Mike Wilborne, former principal at Sinai Elementary for many years, also called community schools the “heart and soul” of the community, and went on to speak about the strong bond that the staff is able to form with each student.

“They are not numbers in a building,” he said, before noting that nine elementary schools had already been closed in the past and he asked where are the savings from those closures.

The retired principal went on to list the names of roads in the western portion of the county, and noted the children who would have to bussed from near the Pittsylvania County line saying students do not need to make that bus ride to Sydnor.

He also said South Boston Elementary doesn’t “need anymore to deal with.”

Meadville Elementary teacher Kanette Hollis said she had worked at Virgilina and Turbeville elementary schools before they closed, and have worked at both large and small schools since.

When teaching at the larger schools, she said it always felt like she was unable to give enough to her students.

Whereas at a smaller school, she said it never feels overcrowded, and she doesn’t feel pushed beyond her needs.

“This is the more logical chose to keep open,” said Holllis, who called closing smalls during the COVID-19 pandemic “reckless.”

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