About 70 people marched down Main Street in Whitesburg earlier this week to protest the possible closure of two elementary schools.
The march was in response to a rumored redistricting plan under which the Letcher County Board of Education would close the Arlie Boggs and Beckham Bates elementary schools. The board has neither announced the schools will be closed nor voted on the matter. The march was organized after more than 100 parents, students and school staff appeared at the board’s October 24 meeting to urge that the two schools remain open.
On Monday, the group of about 70 gathered in front of the Letcher County Courthouse to protest the idea of consolidation. The group, consisting mostly of parents and students from the Arlie Boggs and Beckham Bates schools, referred to themselves as “Citizens Against Consolidation.” Members rallied in front of the courthouse and then marched down Main Street with a police escort to the new Letcher County Health Department and then back to the courthouse.
Mendy Boggs, president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Arlie Boggs Elementary at Eolia, was among the people who marched.
“Keep our schools as they are,” said Boggs. “This is going to affect every person in Letcher County. If your school closes, your property value will drop.”
Boggs said if redistricting is approved, students will no longer be able to attend any school in the district. She said many students will endure longer bus rides.
“ By putting more buses on (Pine) Mountain, you are upping chances of a serious wreck,” said Boggs.
Four of five Letcher County magistrates attended the rally and spoke against consolidation. District One Magistrate Bobby Howard said consolidation will not work.
“I think we need to take a stand and let everyone see we are against it,” said Howard. “I haven’t heard anyone say they are for it. Looks like we are making it more difficult when we don’t have to.”
District Two Magistrate Terry Adams said he is firmly against closing down the two schools because it is a safety issue.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who recently spoke at a community meeting on the proposal to close the Burdine Post Offi ce, said post offices and schools are the identity of a community.
“It’s not about money all the time,” said Fleming.
District Four Magistrate Keith Adams also said consolidation won’t work.
“All I can tell you is to stand firm with it,” Adams told the crowd.
Boggs encouraged those in attendance Monday to call their school board members and express concerns about consolidation as well as attend the upcoming board meetings.
“This is just the beginning,” said Boggs. “They need to see that when they make the decision they won’t be making it alone.”
The next board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 28 in the Lendell Smith Memorial Conference Room in the school bus garage.
At its July meeting, the board approved creating seven teams made up of parents, teachers, school administrators, board members and community members whose purpose is to study the question of whether elementary students should attend classes in separate schools from middle school students.
The teams are each made up of 10 members and are broken down into categories including transportation, curriculum, personnel and staffing, transition, facilities and technology, communication and extracurricular activities. In December the teams will present the school board with a data package containing their conclusions.