Organization fights to keep school open

An Ohio organization, which has worked with a Barbour County school for more than a decade, said those who want to keep the doors open should join with it in the fight.

Matthew 25: Ministries is an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization that has assisted Mount Vernon Elementary School in Barbour County for about 10 years. The organization also has helped the Barbour County Board of Education with projects at other schools as needed.

After all of the organization’s efforts to prevent the shuttering of Mount Vernon Elementary School, the school still has inevitably found its way on to the list of possible closings, partly because of its low enrollment numbers.

“This school, and schools like it that a part of their communities and a value to their communities, are being closed because they do not meet enrollment criteria or may not have all the amenities considered necessary for a school to be considered good,” Jodi Archer, the public relations official and community liaison for Matthew 25: Ministries, said in an email to The Inter-Mountain. “The importance of community schools like this one cannot be overestimated.

“Combining children into larger schools with more students per class will reduce the teachers’ ability to provide individual attention,” she continued. “The longer bus rides will make for exhausting days. Children who are currently excelling at their studies because of the care they are receiving in these smaller, more nurturing environments will fall through the cracks. Shutting down these schools would be devastating to the children and to the surrounding communities.”

Archer said the school’s students are consistently scoring above average on standardized tests in comparison to other schools in the county. She said the students earned some of the highest WesTest scores in the county.

“The reason why the school should stay open, probably the best reason, is because it is truly the best part of the community there,” said Tim Mettey, one of Matthew 25: Ministries leaders. “That’s the real reason we decided to go with that school, because they just had a caring and nurturing way about them. It would be a shame for them to close down because it’s truly helping those kids.”

For the past six years, Matthew 25: Ministries has organized and sponsored an educational summer camp for the students of the school and has provided each student with a winter coat, gloves and a hat each year, Archer said. They also have invested at least $200,000 in the school in the form of supplies, maintenance, repairs and improvements, Mettey said.

“It truly is an incredible school,” Mettey said. “This school truly has something remarkable to offer to lots of children. There are just so many things that show that they’re doing it right even when the school district keeps cutting back.”

Archer said that the school was chosen by Matthew 25: Ministries because of the principal’s belief that each student was capable of great things. Archer said that the principal also has a changed the culture of the school from one of indifference to inspiration.

“Matthew 25: Ministries adopted this school because of its irrepressible determination to make an impact on its students, academically and personally,” Archer said. “Despite every setback, the school’s dedicated staff and supportive parent volunteers have managed to recover and to keep the school high-achieving and a haven for the children.”

Mettey asks that parents and people in the community speak up at the Board of Education about how great they believe the school is.

He said his organization has communicated its views of the school to the BOE and has offered to help the entire Barbour County school system with supplies to help keep the school open.

“We’ll continue to help as long as they need help,” Mettey said.

At least two Board of Education meetings are scheduled for next week. A meeting will be conducted at 6 p.m. on today to host a public hearing regarding the possible closing of Volga-Century Elementary School. It will take place at that school and may be continued to Tuesday if necessary.

The meeting that includes a public hearing regarding the possible closing of Mount Vernon Elementary School will take place at 6 p.m., Wednesday at the Mount Vernon Elementary School. If necessary, the meeting could be continued or postponed to Thursday.

All of the week’s meetings will be in special session.