Augusta School Board Considers Closing Verona Elementary
Verona Elementary School might be closing its doors for good at the end of this school year.
Augusta County appears to be out about $4 million, and with uncertainty from Richmond, school leaders must decide by next week how they'll close the gap.
Most families are disappointed, some are worried, and others are hopeful about these potential shifts. Leaders are doing all they can to cut costs but in these times, drastic measures are needed.
"It does upset me in a way that they would close it. That would make a big difference, I think, to a lot of people,” said Bob Hise, who is a caretaker for students at Verona.
"He does not handle change well at all. He just has never been one that handles change and I think it would affect his schoolwork if they pull him out of here,” said Linda Rexrode, whose grandson attends Verona.
Sky-rocketing projections for new health care and boosts to the Virginia Retirement System mean school leaders are considering consolidating elementary schools. But nothing is off the table for right now.
"Do we want to close schools? Gosh, no, I really don't,” said Elizabeth Godfrey, a member of the Augusta County School Board. “I understand that a school is often the center at the community, I really do. But I have to look at the bottom line."
Godfrey says leaders also have to plan for other big costs, like technology upgrades, raises for teachers, and returning afterschool programs. And with the unsecure pod structure of Verona, renovations for that would cost a fortune.
"This is very fluid at this point, because of fiscal restrictions. So the redrawing of boundary lines, I think, is going to become a reality. Is that upsetting? Yeah, I think it is,” Godfrey said.
While some families approach the future with trepidation, others feel more open-minded.
"I'd hate to see it because I attended school here as a kid, but I wouldn't mind seeing my kid going to another school that's a little bit more up-to-date and the building would be enclosed,” said parent Brad Rodgers.
The only thing clear is that there's no easy decision, and shuffling around might just be the new reality.
The school board returns to the drawing board next Thursday, and members have been asked to pass a budget. That then goes back to the supervisors.
A tax increase is not out of the question.
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