Closing the community based elementary schools was debated last spring through the fall as a way to meet budget constraints but other cost saving measures and appropriations from the Board of Supervisors kept both schools online.
This upcoming fiscal year though, the School Board is looking to cut enough spending to eliminate the need for furlough days. Pay raises and program enhancements have been mentioned as budget additions.
Potential savings from closing the buildings have been estimated as high as $900,000 in an early December joint work session with the Board of Supervisors, but that number was listed as an absolute maximum savings. The draft minutes of the Jan. 25 School Board work session lists savings around $650,000 as being discussed. A constant worry regarding any closures is state mandated standards of quality compliancy.
The Feb. 13 meeting agenda says chairwoman Camilla Washington will present information about closing both schools at the meeting. The items are listed under action items. The headlines for each are ‘Approval to close Columbia Elementary School’ and ‘Approval to close Cunningham Elementary School’.
If reading into titles is a predictor, this May may be the last these buildings see of students.
The facilities are the last remaining ‘community schools’ that Fluvanna had. The county had also used buildings in Palmyra and Fork Union communities before closing those buildings. Palmyra School is now the School Board Office and Fork Union School was given back to the county. It is currently the recreation center of the county.
This old ‘community school’ system feed students from the community schools to Central Elementary School for grades three through fifth. In the 1990s, Central was expanded by one wing to include second graders also.
In the late 1990s with Lake Monticello growing rapidly, the county decided against building a community school in the western portion of the county and instead expand Central Elementary to operate almost as two schools combined in one building.
That late 1990s addition nearly doubled Central and brought all elementary grades to the building. This last project for the building included doubling the cafeteria, creating a larger library and adding a gymnasium for the first time.
Central’s capacity of 1,100 puts it closer to most high schools than elementary schools. SOQ marks do not anticipate an elementary school larger than 750 but doesn’t disallow a practice.
The current feeder system for Fluvanna has Central, Columbia and Cunningham with kindergarten through second grade with Central holding the most students. The third and fourth graders are at Carysbrook Elementary School. The fifth, sixth and seventh graders are at Fluvanna Middle School with the remaining grades in Fluvanna County High School.
Elimination of the two community schools will consolidate the entire lower elementary levels into Central Elementary School while leaving the rest of the feeder program intact.
The School Board meeting will be on Feb. 13 in the Palmyra Auditorium. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.