Breathitt Co. elementary school closing its doors

By: Matthew Rand, Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Matthew Rand, Tanner Hesterberg Email
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ROUSSEAU, Ky. (WYMT) - Months of uncertainty about the fate of a Breathitt County school now is over. Rousseau Elementary is closing its doors.

Last week the board of education refused to adopt an agenda to have a regularly scheduled meeting discussing the school's closure.

That did not stop the state's plan though as State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday approved the plan to close the school last week.

School's out for summer, and for students and teachers at Rousseau Elementary School in Breathitt County, school's out for ever.

"Rousseau Elementary is closed," confirmed Larry Hammond, the district's state-appointed manager. "Of course that was on the agenda last week, as an item for board consideration."

The Local Planning Committee had recommended the school be shut down as a cost-cutting measure. The school board refused to adopt the agenda at last week's regular meeting, and adjourned the meeting in five minutes.

In a letter, State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday strongly reprimanded the school board for its actions, and suspended monthly advisory board meetings until further notice.

The district has been state run since last year. Hammond says closing Rousseau will save the district about $400,000.

"As the district stands today, we're so strapped economically, we cannot make a whole lot of plans that would lead toward better facilities, better instructional programs," he said.

Not everyone will be happy to see Rousseau go, but Hammond says it will ultimately give Breathitt County Schools the flexibility it needs to get back on track.

Members of the Breathitt County School Board could not be reached at airtime for comment.

Hammond says no staff will lose their jobs because of the closing and most students will attend LBJ Elementary about 20 minutes away.

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5/29/13

ROUSSEAU, Ky. (WYMT) - The doors may be closing at one Breathitt County elementary school.

Breathitt County school officials are moving forward with plans to close Rousseau Elementary School.

That caused dozens of students, parents and teachers to show their support for the school at Tuesday's meeting of the Breathitt County Board of Education.

More than 80 people attended the meeting, which lasted less than five minutes.

Board members refused to adopt the meeting's agenda that included plans to close the school.

"It's a good community school," said Larry Hammond, the state manager of the Breathitt County school system. "There's a lot of good community support there and it's really a positive setting. But it doesn't meet the standards the state applies to schools today."

Schools in Breathitt County have been under state management since last year.

Hammond said shutting down Rousseau would save the district more than $400,000 per year.

"The providing of services for all the students within the county can be more efficiently managed by closing that school," he said.

Hammond said none of the teachers, administrators or staff at Rousseau would lose their jobs.

He said those employees will be assigned to other positions in the school system and students that went to Rousseau would instead go to LBJ Elementary, about 20 minutes away.

"The biggest thing is we've got kids that are riding the bus almost two hours right now from up in the head of Evanston, 542 area," said Greg Wilson, who has kids that go to Rousseau and is against the school closing. "It's going to be a big big transition for them to have to come to Jackson."

Michelle McDaniel, who is also against closing Rousseau, said, "It's really heartbreaking. I went there from headstart to eighth grade. My mom cooked there for years and years and my dad worked there and we're just a family oriented school."

Hammond said he plans to submit the plan to close Rousseau to the state education commissioner this week.

If the commissioner approves the plan, the school will shut down.

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Original story, 1/22/13:

JACKSON, Ky. (WYMT) - Rumors of a Breathitt County Elementary School possibly being shut down are upsetting some parents and teachers.

Larry Hammond, who recently assumed superintendent duties after Breathitt County became state managed, met with parents and others that are concerned.

Hammond is admitting that Rousseau Elementary School may be shut down to save money, but the decision is not entirely up to him.

The local planning committee is scheduled to come up with a proposal by June that could include shuttering the school.

The plan will require Hammond's approval before being sent to the Kentucky Board of Education for final approval

“We're all concerned about it. We love our little school and we want to see it stay open and we just hope that everything works out to where we can stay open,” Principal Darrell Watts said.

One parent has even started a petition to keep the school open. It already has more than 600 signatures.

“When you close a small school like this, the community is, it's the center of the community, it's the heart of the community so when you close this it's just going to devastate the whole area,” Board member Rebecca Holbrook said.

Holbrook has a child that goes to Rousseau. She is concerned with travel times if students are forced to go to other schools.

“Small children are going to be riding a minimum of an hour, hour and forty five minutes including stops and everything to get to town,” Holbrook said.

One of the people attending Tuesday's meeting was Lisa Howard, whose two daughters went to Rousseau.

“This is not just a school full of kids. This is a family that attends this school. They are involved with each other on a daily basis and they consider each other as family,” Howard said.

“The rumors this year seem like they have a lot more bite to them this year than they've ever had,” Principal Watts said.

Around 100 students attend Rousseau Elementary.

It is unclear what would happen to the teachers and staff if the school does end up being shut down.


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