Buchanan County

Community voices concerns after school layoffs

Buchanan school layoffs meeting

BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. - About 100 people packed a Buchanan County School Board meeting on Thursday night to sound off on recent layoffs. 

People overflowed into the street, trying to get into the meeting. The crowd grew so large, the meeting had to be moved from the school board office to the Grundy High School gymnasium.

About 50 employees lost their jobs on Monday due to a $2.1 million dollar deficit created by funding cuts, superintendent Larry Ashby told us. Click here to read more.

They considered consolidating schools to avoid layoffs, but people did not like the idea, Ashby said.

Students, staff, and other community members at the meeting told the board they are worried about what the cuts could mean for education.

One student told us she already sees the effects of the cuts in her classroom. "We used to have a classroom aid or two in the classroom," said Madison Blankenship, a fifth grade student at Twin Valley Elementary. There haven't been aides in her class all week, she said.

Blankenship came to the meeting with her mother and sister. Her classroom experience has been different since the beginning of the year, she said. "Last year we had three teachers," said Blankenship. "This year we only have two fifth grade teachers so we had to divide up all 90 of those kids into two classrooms."

Teacher's aides, janitors and long-time substitutes lost their jobs.

Some schools were hit harder than others, said Preston Hibbitts, a social studies teacher and president of the Buchanan Educational Association. "The biggest changes were in Russel Prater Elementary," Hibbitts said. "They had a lot of new hires, and those new hires were sent home and teachers were transferred from other schools in the county."

One district custodian told us her supplies have been cut almost in half. "We now get $325 every three months to buy our toilet paper, paper towels cleaning supplies and we can't do it," said Karen Wright, a custodian at Russell Prater.

Wright told us the money is there to save the jobs. "If the board of supervisors would give the little bit of extra funding they need they wouldn't have had to, they wouldn't have had to lay off the time sheet people," said Wright, referring to employees not contracted by the school district.

Hibbitts told News 5 the board will have to go into executive session to make a final decision on the budget and job cuts. That process could take a few days.  

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