With more than $38 million to make up in budget reconciliation, the Loudoun County School Board reluctantly has been trying to find ways to cut spending for fiscal 2015.
One of the items on the cut list assembled by the board at this time is the closure of four historic elementary schools in western Loudoun.
Aldie, Hillsboro, Hamilton and Lincoln Elementary Schools have been proposed to be closed.
Should they be closed, it would save $2 million toward the fiscal 2015 budget.
Jim Burton, a former member of the Board of Supervisors and longtime Aldie resident, said the communities have been outraged at the possible closure of the four small schools.
“This has been brought up many times in the past and it is really a shame the majority of School Board members don't seem to understand what these schools mean to local communities,” Burton said. “Some of the board members claim these schools are inefficient yet not a single School Board member can define efficiency in a school system. In this case I think they are arguing against these small schools because they have small teacher to pupil ratios.
“They argue they want for the entire school system, but yet they turn around and want to punish those schools that have lower teacher-to-pupil ratios. It doesn't make sense,” Burton said.
According to LCPS staff, the four schools have a wide range in cost per pupil.
On average, it costs $11,638 to educate a student in Loudoun.
Aldie Elementary School at 131 students and Lincoln Elementary School with 135 students both require less than the county average to educate their students.
Aldie has a cost-per-pupil of $11,090 and Lincoln has a cost-per-pupil of $10,099.
Both Hamilton with 165 students and Hillsboro with 62 students have costs per pupil above the county average at $12,470 and $19,040, respectively.
Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) asked LCPS staff to find out how much would be potentially saved through the re-purposing of computers and other equipment through the closing of the four schools. Hornberger specifically wanted to know how this could affect the county's current computer refresh effort as well as other equipment.
According to staff, the total number of instructional and administrative computers to be re-purposed from the closing schools would be 177 and 60, respectively.
An additional cost savings would be obtained from the fiscal 2015 budget of approximately $82,740 due to not performing a computer refresh in the closing schools.
If any or all of the schools are closed, affected students would be reassigned to neighboring schools and a new boundary process would begin later this month or early May.
“A lot of these rural kids already spend long bus rides to get to school,” Burton said. “To close these schools and ship them east would add to the length of the bus rides for the children who live west of Route 15. It is unconscionable.”
Middleburg Elementary, another small school that has been on the chopping block in past years, developed a charter school application that was approved last month. Hillsboro Elementary has been rumored to be developing an application for their small school as well.
The Loudoun County School Board will hold a public hearing and work session addressing the closing of the four schools April 21. The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the School Administration Building in Ashburn.