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Roanoke Co. spares Fort Lewis from closure next school year
The school board will vote on next year’s budget, which preserves the school for another school year, on Thursday.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Even as Fort Lewis Elementary School in Roanoke County escapes the budgetary cross hairs this year, community members discussed its future at a meeting Monday evening.
The school system’s budget proposal, presented last week, spares the school from closure for the 2013-14 school year. But in recent years the approximately 240-student school has found itself consistently on the chopping block as the school system struggles with an ever-tightening budget.
“I don’t know what the future is going to bring,” David Wymer, the Catawba District school board representative, said during the meeting, adding he sees closing the school as a possibility if something “devastating” or “catastrophic” were to occur.
He said after the meeting that it’s going to be a tough budget situation until revenue picks up, but that the school board has sent a strong signal by opting to keep Fort Lewis open next school year.
The board will vote on next year’s budget, which preserves the school for another school year, on Thursday.
Wymer also said several times during the meeting that no one on the school board wants to close the school. Wymer was joined by Butch Church, the area’s board of supervisors representative, who underscored the desire to keep the school open.
Even so, shrinking revenues in recent years have made the school’s closure part of budget discussions.
In August, Superintendent Lorraine Lange told Fort Lewis teachers that closing the school was a possibility. It was estimated that the move would save $450,000 annually after the first year.
Even before the last several years, the school’s fate has also been in jeopardy. Fort Lewis was closed in the 1980s and reopened two years later. It also found itself identified for potential closure in 1990.
A couple of speakers at Monday’s meeting asked about the possibility of potential tax increases so the school system would have additional revenue, something Church wasn’t optimistic about. He said there weren’t the votes on the board of supervisors to increase taxes.
He did talk about the school system potentially being able to use surplus funds in the future for its operating budget. The board of supervisors and the school board have an agreement to use surplus funds for minor and major capital, rather than operating expenses.
Close to 80 people attended Monday’s meeting, and a handful of them asked questions.
Mike Keen , the Fort Lewis PTA president, said afterward that even with the school not closing next year, parents still had questions.
“Where are we going to go from here?” he asked , noting that closing Fort Lewis has been discussed for years.
He said the board’s decision not to close the school next year is important, but at the same time the community cannot let its guard down. He appeared optimistic about potential growth in the area and the economy.
“Things are starting to change,” he said.
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