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115 attend meeting on future of Sanville school

Friday, February 21, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

At what was billed as “a community meeting to save Sanville Elementary School” on Thursday night, a number of speakers stressed the importance of the school to its students and the community.

Speakers also discussed disadvantages they feel students would suffer if they were reassigned to other schools.

Blackberry Baptist Church hosted the meeting, attended by 115 people.

The closing of Sanville would vacate the 1927 building, the oldest in the school division. It was recommended among “short-term (over next five years)” priorities by Moseley Architects as part of a capital improvements study for Henry County Public Schools. The study also recommends building a new, consolidated school to replace John Redd Smith Elementary and Collinsville Primary.

Joe DeVault, chairman of the Henry County School Board, said during the meeting or said earlier this week during an interview that the board did not know beforehand what Moseley Architects’ recommendation would be, that the board’s priority is on getting funding for a consolidated school for the Collinsville District and that the board has not discussed the architect’s proposal.

He also said he thinks not knowing whether funding can be obtained for a consolidated school for the Collinsville District, that it’s premature to be discussing the Sanville project at this point — something that potentially might need to be addressed 10 to 15 years from now

Many who spoke from the audience praised high-quality and caring Sanville teachers who helped children, some of whom have been way behind in school or with disabilities; the historic and central importance of the school in the community; and the benefits of a community-based school.

Some said school division officials should be asking themselves how closing Sanville would improve education for students.

For example, Shawn Pilson said, “It’s not just about money.”

Some speakers expressed fears that students who would be reassigned to other schools would be in larger classes, get less one-to-one attention and might fall behind in school. They also had concerns about students having longer bus rides.

Some said the 1927 building of the school only was four rooms, and there have been a number of additions and renovations to the school since then, and they questioned whether that would have been wasted tax money if the school is closed?

PTA President Andrea Harbour said this week Sanville school “is a really nice facility to have been there as long as it has been there.”

People of all ages — from young to retired — expressed their love for the school.

“I love this school. I really don’t want it to close down,” said Sanville student Rebecca Marshall.

Robin Turner said, “I just think it would be terrible, terrible detriment to this community if we close Sanville School.”

Pastor Eric Kieselbach of Blackberry Baptist Church moderated the meeting, and Harbour reviewed a handout that effort leaders had put together.

It says, among other things, Sanville currently has 283 students; 62 staff members, including bus drivers; average class size of 18 to one; and grades pre-school fifth grade. According to the handout and Harbour, the school has an active PTA and its Boys and Girls Club/Afterschool Program is the only one currently in the Henry County Schools.

According to the handout and Harbour, the school has accredited teachers and staff; land to expand, which some schools don’t have; has a new basketball field and walking track; and offers summer Boys and Girls Club child care. Several schools in the area have closed over the years, including Mary Hunter, Samuel Hairston, Fieldale Elementary and Fieldale High, the brochure said. One man in the audience also said Bassett Middle had closed.

The brochure lists these “disadvantages for Sanville students upon closing: larger class sizes/less one-on-one attention; bullying; longer bus rides to school; possible regressing in scholastics; loss of community-based education.”

According to Harbour and the brochure, “cost-effective solutions” might include redistricting school attendance zones; fencing in Sanville’s mobile units to address security concerns; building a sports center adjoined to the school; and using the current gym and stage to make additional classrooms. Harbour said the current gym is not large enough to accommodate Henry County Parks and Recreation games.

According to Harbour and the brochure, the average student who attends Sanville lives within six miles of the school and the average distance to other area schools from Sanville are: Stanleytown Elementary, 10 miles; Campbell Court, eight miles; Carver Elementary, 12 miles; Collinsville Primary, 15 miles; and John Redd Smith, 15 miles.

Anyone interested was asked to pick up a petition being distributed.

Moseley Architects’ recent capital improvements study for Henry County Public Schools recommends building a new, consolidated school to replace John Redd Smith Elementary and Collinsville Primary.

To address other “short-term (over next five years)” priorities of trying to eliminate six modular units at Sanville Elementary and four modular units at Stanleytown Elementary, Moseley Architects recommended shifting the five special-needs classrooms now at Stanleytown Elementary to the proposed new Collinsville Primary/John Redd Smith Elementary School and shifting the nearly 300 students from Sanville Elementary to Carver, Campbell Court and Stanleytown elementary schools and closing Sanville Elementary.

Sanville Elementary was built in 1927, with additions/renovations in 1947, 1961 and 1996. The school’s roof was replaced in 2011.

“Coupled with the new consolidated Collinsville/John Redd Smith, it would vacate 3 existing schools and reduce the total number of elementary schools from 10 to 8.”

It also would vacate 116,280 square feet of old buildings and replace that with 95,000 square feet of new buildings, for a reduction of 21,280 square feet, the report says.

The architect’s report says that from 2000 to 2012, student enrollment in the county schools “has shown continuous decline.” Total student enrollment decreased from 8,722 students to 7,136, a total decrease of 18.2 percent, the report says. It also projects enrollment for the 2013-2017 period, with declines expected each of those years.

Long range — perhaps 15 to 20 years from now, some school division officials have said — the architect suggests potential consolidation of Campbell Court and Stanleytown elementary schools, Sanville and Carver elementary schools (if Sanville had not closed), Mt. Olivet and Axton elementary schools and Rich Acres and Drewry Mason elementary schools. That would reduce the number of elementary schools in the division to five.

Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton, who did not attend Thursday night’s meeting, stated recently in an email: “It is important to emphasize the fact that the presentation from Moseley Architects was just a recommendation that was presented for consideration. The Henry County School Board has not made any decisions about whether or not to move forward with this recommendation. When and if the School Board and BOS (Board of Supervisors) decide they want to move forward with this recommendation, HCPS will schedule community meetings at that time.”


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