My comments at the 5/25/17 public hearing

At the Albemarle County School Board public hearing on Thursday, May 25th, I and many other members of the community spoke about the need to keep B.F. Yancey Elementary School open. Unfortunately, later that evening the board voted 2-5 to consolidate Yancey. Although I am disappointed by this decision, I believe that it is important now to focus on supporting the students and families affected by this decision.

My remarks from Thursday’s meeting are below:

Good evening Dr. Acuff and members of the board.

My names is Julian Waters. I live at 2611 Holkham Drive.

Tonight is the third meeting which directly discusses the possibility of closing Benjamin Franklin Yancey Elementary school. I, like many others, find myself somewhat confused trying to digest the rapid pace of the discussion. While I understand the struggles that Yancey is facing, I don’t believe that accelerating the decision making process aids anyone. As Mr. Koleszar said at the April 27th meeting in which closing Yancey was first discussed, ‘Whenever we shortchange the process we betray the trust which we hold with the community’. Conversations around Yancey take on an entirely new meaning when they are directly in the context of closing the school, and I don’t believe it’s fair to anyone involved for the decision making process to move forward this rapidly.

I’d also like to refute the notion of ‘throwing money’ at Yancey. As a priority school, and as a school with a large amount of disadvantaged students, higher costs should be expected. Yancey has faced severe septic system issues in recent years, and the school itself has not received any recent school improvement projects, compared to Greer elementary, which has a similar makeup of disadvantaged students, which has received over 50 according to data shown at the last board meeting. It is clear that Yancey has not been afforded to modernization or improvement opportunities that have been given to other schools in the district, and this in itself creates an unequitable divide.

There are also budgetary implications to consider- how much, if at all, does closing Yancey affect the just recently approved budget? Are there changes that need to be made in order to accommodate for the relocation of students and staff? Have the budgetary and logistical implications been studied when considering closing Yancey at the end of this school year?

I don’t mean to sweep under the rug the dire situation that Yancey faces both in terms of enrollment and accreditation status, but the fast pace of discussion and the just recent talk of closing Yancey leads me to believe that not all options have been fully considered, and it is out of concern for the students and parents of all schools involved that I ask the board to keep Yancey open and explore alternative possibilities.

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