HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - Hawkins County could stand to save nearly $5 million over five years by closing two of its elementary schools. Thats's one of the findings from a board of education workshop Thursday night.
No decision was made, so the fate of McPheeter's Bend Elementary and Keplar Elementary are still up in the air. Thursday's meeting was the first to discuss the financial variables the school board is considering in its decision.
The board conference room was packed with people against closing either school. Dozens of people from the McPheeters Bend and Keplar Elementary communities came to support their schools.
Patti Crawford said her famliy has been going to Keplar for generations, and she said it's not an issue they'll give up on.
"They're putting money before education," Crawford said. "I don't think there should be a dollar amount put on keeping the education that we have going on."
Director of schools Steve Starnes presented information about all ten schools in the county, including the total cost per student. The cost estimates to educate kids at the schools per student per year are as follows:
Carter's Valley Elementary - $6,696
Hawkins Elementary - $6,693
Joseph Rogers Primary - $7,220
Keplar Elementary - $8,985
McPheeter's Bend Elementary - $10,838
Church Hill Elementary - $6,330
Mt. Carmel Elementary - $6,266
St. Clair Elementary - $8,403
Surgoinsville Elementary - $6,364
Mooresburg - $8,975
"We have to try to deliver an education to all 7,000 students in our system as efficiently and effectively as possible, and just looking at information to see is this economically feasible," Starnes said.
He also presented information about bus transit times and construction and solar energy contracts that will need to be considered and passed on should the schools be sold or used for other purposes. He also said some jobs could be lost by combining schools.
"There is turnover each year so it's not to say if this does come to be that somebody's automatically losing their job," Starnes said.
But Crawford said she won't stop fighting to save the schools.
"I think they're rushing. I think they're doing everything too quickly and trying to give too much information at one time."
Starnes said he has a timeline in mind for making the decision but declined to share any specifics. He said there will be school board meetings in the future inviting input from the community.
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