BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. - It's been debated for nearly a year, but Monday night, a difficult decision had to be made. The Buchanan County Public School Board is closing down Russell Prater Elementary School.
At a public hearing, a sign by a Russell Prater school student read, "We welcome all students." Now, those children are hoping kids at other Buchanan County schools are equally welcoming, considering the school board voted to shut down the school.
A voter in favor of closing said at the meeting, "What's fair is not always right, and what's right is not always easy. I've struggled with this decision for over a year, but I have to move to close."
A $2.1 million deficit in 2013 forced the county school system to find a way to save money. Consolidation was the toughest choice, but one that, in the end, had to be made.
The plan wasn't popular last year, and it wasn't Monday night, as parents, grandparents and employees questioned why a fully accredited school with students earning high SOL scores is facing closure.
Others wanted to know how students will get to other schools. "You take a 6 year old or a five year old or a three year old kid and put them on a bus, it's gonna take them an hour on that bus," one parent said.
Board members went back and forth, even raising their voices at one another. But in the end, the vote passed 4-3 to close Russell Prater.
A decision that one speaker warned would damage the community. "It's a part of the community, and a community won't thrive, Russell Prater community will have a very difficult time thriving, if you take away its heartbeat," another parent said.