Community schools – Another point of view

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In the name of community schools, the Charlotte County School Board has decided to maintain three separate, but unequal, elementary schools at greater cost to taxpayers. The Board of Supervisors supported this decision by amending the FY 2019 budget to appropriate an additional $3.2 million. On Sept. 11 the School Board awarded a contract to add multipurpose rooms to Bacon District and Phenix Elementary Schools, with most of the money for eight new classrooms at Phenix.

Is the term “community schools” being used to hide the real reason for not consolidating the elementary schools and providing all students equal facilities? Let’s study the most recent data available on the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) website to understand reality.

The student population of Bacon from Fall 2015 to Fall 2017:

Decreased from 211 to 176 (17 percent decrease).

Was constant at 47 percent black and 48 percent white.

The student population of Phenix during this same period:

Increased from 254 to 272 (7 percent increase).

Decreased from 28 percent black to 22 percent black (Eureka also 22 percent black in fall 2017)

Increased from 67 percent white to 71 percent white.

In summary, the student population at Bacon is decreasing while Phenix is increasing and getting more white.

How do the number of economically disadvantage students (e.g., eligible for free/reduced meals or receive TANF or Medicaid) compare between the two schools? In Fall 2017, 70 percent of the Bacon students were economically disadvantaged compared to 58 percent at Phenix.

What are other measures provided by VDOE? Phenix students score significantly higher than Bacon on standardized tests. Eureka students score even higher.

VDOE data supports a view the County is clustering students at Bacon who are: (1) black; (2) the most economically disadvantaged; or (3) score the lowest on standard tests. How does this clustering improve the chances of Bacon students succeeding in the sixth grade when all students go to Central Middle School?

In February 2017, the School Board documented large cost savings by consolidating the elementary schools. In January 2018, the School Board’s position changed from consolidation to community schools with no mention of cost. A primary reason given for the change was a better education in community schools. How does clustering and unequal facilities help students at Bacon achieve a better education?

If the County’s decision is to pay the extra cost for community elementary schools, why are students at Bacon not provided equal facilities? Why is only Phenix getting major improvements when the Bacon facility has HVAC, electrical and asbestos issues? Is who the students are a reason for the difference?

Terry Ramsey is a resident of Charlotte Court House and can be contacted at Terrill.