If there are parents in Loudoun who want to see Lincoln Elementary School closed, none of them showed up at the School Board’s Jan. 15 public hearing.
Instead, dozens of parents and community members urged the board to keep the small but popular school in Purcellville open, calling the recent discussion to remove maintenance funding from the school ridiculous.
Victor Blake, a parent of two children at Lincoln, urged the board to table discussions on closing the school, saying it was the only county service he got.
“We have no paved roads, no sewer, no water, in fact we have no town, no police,” Blake said. “The only service we get from the county is public schools and we’ve been pleased with that service.”
He said it would be a mistake to shut down a National Blue Ribbon School, a designation given out to schools by the Department of Education for unusually high performance.
It’s one of three county schools to win the award since 2003.
“It shouldn’t be a school that has performed so well,” Blake said. “It has brought great honor to the district.”
The discussion was brought about when School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) proposed eliminating funding for HVAC units, electrical system upgrades and replacement fire alarm systems in the school system’s Capital Asset Protection Program (CAPP).
The upgrades, which totaled about $310,000, were never voted on. In the ensuing discussion, School Board Vice Chair Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), characterized the motion as starting down the path to close Lincoln, calling that “the elephant in the room.”
Other speakers repeated the basic premise of Blake’s argument, that such a high performing school that was well-liked by the community shouldn’t be shut down because of cost.
“Why would you cut a county school that is fully enrolled and fully paid for? Why would you abandon a historical school that is performing at the high end of the academic standard?” Colleen Gustavson said. “This is a school that works. This is a school that can be used as a working model for other schools.”
Leslie McFadden, who has two children at Lincoln and who previously worked as a civil engineer, disputed the idea that costs to keep Lincoln up to code were not expensive, putting it at $180 to $200 per student.
She said worked in another Virginia school district, advising them on repairs and maintenance.
“Not once did the school system consider closing a school, even a small school, because it was in need of extensive repairs,” McFadden said.
Cara Orenzuk argued that forsaking essential upgrades for Lincoln was unreasonable because other schools had gotten optional equipment - new soap dispensers, flat screen TVs and turf fields.
“Some schools wanted new soap dispensers and toilet paper holders, they don’t need them,” Orenzuk said. “Some schools want all new flat screen TVs, they don’t need them. Some schools want $2 million turf football fields. They surely do not need them, they want them.”
Orenzuk said the maintenance wasn’t optional.
“We need a half a million dollars maintenance on a school that was given to us, the community,” Orenzuk said. “We wish we didn’t need the maintenance, but we do. Just like every other school that you all represent.”
The School Board is expected to adopt its operating budget Jan. 24. The school system originally proposed an $876.4 million budget, up from a $823.1 million budget in fiscal 2013.
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