Protest Decision needed on school issue

The Barbour County Board of Education is again raising the ire of parents, this time over lack of action in reintroducing pre-K and kindergarten programs at two county schools.

Parents and children took to the streets prior to Wednesday’s board meeting to again voice concerns about the needed additions at Volga Century and Mount Vernon elementary schools.

Protesters braved rainy conditions before airing their grievances inside at the BOE’s regular gathering.

Sherri Dennison spoke to board members saying, “You can tell by my outfit tonight that we are dedicated, we are going to be loyal. We stood out in the rain and we are not going to give up.”

Dennison and a group of concerned citizens have been petitioning the board to add the programs for months, only to be repeatedly put off.

BOE President Bob Wilkins told those gathered that a decision can not be made quickly.

“In reality, that could be not until closer to when school starts because that’s when (potential) students finally actually show up, and we have a better head count. Now, it’s either on paper, or it’s not even a real number that we’re looking at because they haven’t signed up. We’re working with numbers of those that we actually have a count for.”

That may be so, but parents already have presented board members with information that if the programs were added, enrollment likely would increase.

This, especially, is important as fifth-grade students will be moved from the two elementary schools to the county’s middle schools this fall. As a result, the move will further decrease enrollment at the two facilities, truly making their financial viability questionable.

This, though, seems to be what officials are aiming for, as they continue to drag their feet on adding pre-K and kindergarten classes.

Barbour County Superintendent of Schools Joe Super told those gathered Wednesday, “Once we know we have concrete numbers that will necessitate an additional classroom, then we will make a decision. … I really don’t think that our position on that has changed. Once we know if the numbers are there, we’ll come to the board with a recommendation as to what to do, where to place the class.”

Obviously, there is an abundance of community support to not only keep these two schools open, but to make them thrive.

The hand-wringing must stop and a decision must be made. Most parents don’t decide on a whim to switch schools. Officials should not wait until the last minute to make a decision or to make this an option. With advance notice, more parents would plan accordingly and likely enroll their children at these locations.

Board members need to take pause and reflect on what is best for the community and its children. The learning environments provided at these two institutions are top-notch. Delaying this decision not only disrespects and leads on parents, it shows a lack of care and concern for what’s most important – the children.