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Leave Lincoln alone, parents tell School Board

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.


@ Mom of 2
I think your shift key is sticking

Thank you, Mr. Blake for explaining the number$ and facts so clearly. I appreciate the details. My husband and I moved to this area in the last few months SPECIFICALLY so our young children could have the benefit of going to Lincoln El. He is commuting a total of 4 hr every day so our kids can have the experience of a small high-performing school in the country. We are devastated that this issue is even being considered. I hope and pray that our officials understand the tremendous impact of their actions here. IT IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN DOLLAR$$ TO US. And no, my caps lock button isn’t sticking.

@myownsense, Yes, when parents at other schools demand extras that are not available in the budget it comes out of fundraising by PTO or direct expenses to the parents.  I paid for music lessons, full day kindergarten, sports, tutoring, etc.

The cost of a small facility is not only the maintenance cost per child seat, but energy costs and staff costs that are higher than other schools because of an inefficient building. 

Someone needs to do the math, but without cherry picking the numbers.  If the school makes financial sense O.K. But the arguement that your school is so special that you should get extra money from taxpayers isn’t a winning argument.

You don’t know me otherwise you would not be shouting at me.
Add the admin overhead a 7 to 1 ratio.
We are already paying said teachers.
Kids would be absorbed under exsisting vice-principals.
Try car-pooling.
What is going to need fixing in 2 years or 3 years…?
How many busses run to Lincoln now?

I live in Loudoun County but nowhere near Lincoln. I’m not sure I follow the proposal put forward by EdMyers. Are you proposing that only Lincoln parents be subject to this “optional educational choice” fee? Would you propose to subject all of the other parents in all of the other community schools to similar “optional educational choice” fees for the costs to support their schools? I’ll bet a scenario like that would make the relatively low costs of upgrading and maintaining schools like Lincoln very attractive when compared to the costs of paying down and servicing the debt of some of the new schools that parents elsewhere in the county find themselves needing and/or demanding. I’d be willing to bet a model like that would soon have parents beating a path to the doors of Lincoln Elementary to enroll their children in what is apparently a very high performing school rather than pay the full freight to send their children to one of the more modern buildings in their own communities. Sounds to me like the taxpayers are getting a bargain at Lincoln. Don’t mess with something that works. Unless I have misconstrued what you wrote, I don’t think your proposal sounds very fair or realistic. It seems like you want one standard for Lincoln where only the parents of the children who go to school there pay for the costs of capital improvements, upgrades and maintenance while all of the taxpayers in the entire county, including Lincoln, support the costs of capital projects, upgrades and maintencane for all other county schools. Please correct me if you meant something else. Now, if the parents in Lincoln start demanding a brand, spanking new replacement building, that would be another story.

@victorblake - In case you didn’t notice, the Caplock key on your computer is sticking.  You may want to have someone take a look at it.

Lincoln Elementary is owned free and clear. A comparative elementary school (like Kenneth W. Culbuert) has (at the county GO bond rate of 1.68%) about $1.5M (rounded down) in P&I payments due. With 516 kids at KWC that comes out to $2,900 (rounded down) per child for the 20 year period for the loan.  Maint costs come from LCPS not the parents. They at first said $310k and then THEY changed the number to $600k. Honestly, it’s hard to believe LCPS when the numbers change every few days or every week. But let’s be clear, when you take $600k and decpreciate it over 20 years (same as other LoCo g.o. capital) at the same 1.68% you get $35,340. Divided by 137 students at Lincoln you get $257 per child. Obviously it’s far cheaper to do maintinance on the existing school then the cost “per child” of building a new school. That does NOT INCLUDE the cost of buying and developing the land (as you may recall with Woodgrove for example—many millions of dollars).

Make no mistake about it. LCPS CIP calls for ES-25 and ES26 to be built here in Western Loudoun. LCPS has every intention of building two more schools (about the size of the new Douglass school in Leesburg) at a cost of $30M-$36M each exclusive of land and development costs.

If Lincoln AND the other small schools are closed—WE WILL be paying $1.5M in P&I for each of those two new schools to handle the capacity. FACT - KWC, Banneker, and Emerick cannot handle all of the kids in Lincoln, Middleburg, Hillsboro, Waterford, and Aldie—all of which Mr. Adamo and Mr. Hatrick have tried to close for many years.

Is that money well spent ? If we spend $60M to $72M in construction plus several millions for land and development—AND—increase bus rides to over 1 hour per ES child—increasing the need for busses, drivers, fuel, etc. We are ALL GOING TO OPEN OUR WALLETS to pay for it. EACH NEW ES SUPPORTS 750 STUDENTS. THAT’S 1500 SEATS THAT WE DO NOT NEED TO BUILD if the small schools are kept open.

My youngest will be done at Lincoln in two years. With the required one year notice, at most my youngest misses out on 1 year at Lincoln. This isn’t about 1 year for one child.

This is about spending over $70M to (as LCPS plans—you can look for yourself online). Or choosing to defer that expense by YEARS by keeping the small schools open.

To those who want to close them, putting aside biases against “small schools” I can tell you this. We will all pay. If what you want is to pay for two new ES for Western Loudoun—go for it. The truth is that if you close the small schools, the kids will FILL the existing schools past capacity and drive the need for two new ES. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT ADAMO WANTS. LOOK at the “staff” (Adamo) response to the SB questions. It’s no mistake that his “1500” answer is ES25+ES26 with 750 students each.

It’s important for all of us to understand each particpant’s agenda. Do I want to save Lincoln because it is a great school ? Yes. Is it close by ? Yes. Do I enjoy driving me kids to school every morning ? Yes. Will i miss all of those things if it is closed ? Yes, I will. BUT YOU WILL BE PAYING TO BUS MY KIDS TO CULBERT because it is further and I will not drive them. DITTO FOR MORE THAN 1/2 OF the Lincoln families.

When we loose our school, you will:
- pay for more transportation
- pay for the teachers, because Lincoln class sizes are already the same as KWC, Emerick, Banneker
- pay for new vice-principals instead of our 1/2 time principal
- pay to bus 100% of the kids to KWC since almost no-one is walking distance to KWC
- when KWC, Emerick, and Banneker are full in 2014/2015, you will pay clear over $30M + land + development + legal fees for a new school to be built. WE—THE LINCOLN COMMUNITY—DON’T NEED A NEW SCHOOL AND WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR IT. BUT—IF YOU CLOSE LINCOLN—WE—ARE GOING TO GET A NEW SCHOOL AND YOU (THAT’S YOU) WILL PAY FOR IT.

Rember—you get what you ask for. YOU WANT ALL NEW SCHOOLS—YOU WILL GET THEM. And WE WILL ALL PAY FOR THEM. But remember, we didn’t ask…

If you put in those turf fields for the high schools then Lincoln should get the money it needs for maintenance.  Still waiting to see the dollars that the district brought in by leasing the existing turf fields…...I’m guessing it’s a big fat 0.

Good grief !  For the 21 years I’ve lived in this county, we’ve been subjected to bond referendum after bond referendum, to build new schools for the never-ending influx of new residents.  To my knowledge, no school bond has ever been defeated, signaling the will of the people for good schools.  Well,  Lincoln ES has been here a lot longer than most of us, and it seems rather suspect, that a Dulles supervisor wanted to cut-out the money for its’ upkeep.  Leave the school alone - it serves the community of Lincoln well, just like the schools in the other districts serve theirs.

Just make Lincoln an optional educational choice.  If parents want the kids to stay at Lincoln have them write a $200 check or fundraise to maintain their community school. Child of parents who don’t want to pay will be bused to another school.  If the community has to fund it we will soon see how important (or not) it is to keep that school.

That’s $200 a year for 20 years isn’t it. I am sure Mr. Blake will break it down for us. Will this school last long enough for these improvements to pay off and what about future improvements? 20k for the serving line, then is it 310k as stated above or is it 500k as Orenzuk states. If he is unsure of the numbers maybe he should do some research first. What kind of bus service is supplied and what does it cost per student? If the cost per student is in line with the rest of Loudoun’s student costs keep it open or better yet expand it.

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