SMYTH COUNTY, Va. - The Smyth County School Board has decided to close the middle school portion of the Sugar Grove Combined School.
The superintendent of schools told us that $1 million in new state mandated expenses involving medical and pension benefits are forcing the decision.
Smyth County School Superintendent Mike Robinson says around 50 middle school students will be affected.
This will be the last school year for the middle school part of Sugar Grove Combined School, and that's leaving some students and parents upset. "[I'm] heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken. It's just really sad. It's sad for our kids," says parent Nikki Hurt.
"I've also got my little sister here that's going to be by herself. She's going to be riding the bus by herself too," says Nickolas Hale.
Nickolas Hale is a 7th grader at Sugar Grove Combined School. He says next year he'll have to get up even earlier to catch the bus now. "I'll have to start getting up earlier, start getting ready. I'm going to have to either ride the bus that gets down here at 7:30 or get up and take a car down to Marion," he said.
Smyth County Schools Superintendent Mike Robinson says the middle school students who would've gone to Sugar Grove Combined School will now be bussed here to Marion Middle School. "The most that we would have to add it would be based on numbers is another bus coming over the mountain. All of the buses would converge into Sugar Grove as they do each morning," he explained.
Robinson says they already bus high school students from Sugar Grove to Marion Senior High.
What about the teachers who are impacted? He says they are working with them to find the best solution. "Knowing we have to work within their licensure and we have to work within where we have vacancies, we're not just creating a position but looking at it all those different factors," he said.
Meanwhile, Nikki Hurt says now her family is weighing their options. "We've debated home schooling, we've debated moving, or just biting the bullet and sending them to Marion," she said.
The superintendent also said the elementary part of Sugar Grove Combined School will stay open.