By Ashley Rader
“Why my children?”
Community members took the opportunity to express their feelings about the possible closure of Range Elementary School during a Carter County Board of Education workshop Monday.
Four speakers who asked for a place on the workshop agenda outlined what the school meant to them, the students and the community.
Director of Schools Kevin Ward first presented the recommendation to the school board during a meeting in early March, saying closing the school would save the system about $350,000, which he said was a conservative estimate. If the board votes to close Range Elementary, which is located in Watauga, the 94 students there would attend Central Elementary.
“Range is the heart of the school system,” former Range student Paula Smith told board members. “It is more than just a school. If you move the kids to another school, they will not have that experience.”
Smith shared her worries that the move from Range to Central would have a negative impact on her children.
She said the staff at Range took the time to work with each student, and that under the attention of the Range teachers one of her daughters had seen significant improvement and enjoyed attending school, and another daughter was improving after having learning disabilities addressed.
“Why my children? Why not start at another school if you have to do this?” she said. “I want my children to have the same ethics, heart and soul that have come down through Range for the past 170 years.”
Paul Schmucker told the board about his concern over the impact closing the school would have on the students. He also questioned what would happen to the Range teachers.
“I know you care about Range and the community,” Schmucker said. “I know you care about the education of our children. I believe closing Range will have a negative impact on the community. I am concerned for the children’s education. There is a great sense of passion that comes from the teachers and principals that echoes through the community.”
Amy Sigman also has two children who attend Range. She said one of her child’s grades improved by 92 percent after moving to Range from another elementary.
“The school is not just a school,” she said. “It is a home to the students. They are there from kindergarten until they go to high school. Will they get the attention and the help they need at Central?”