A $310,000 regularly scheduled maintenance project for the 160 student Lincoln Elementary School has turned into a very convenient way for politicians to turn some of the most historic and educationally relevant Loudoun County educational institutions into nothing more than surplus property.
Certain members of the Loudoun County School Board are arguing that these small old schools – including (in addition to Lincoln Elementary) schools in Aldie, Hillsboro, Hamilton, Middleburg, and Round Hill – cannot meet the relative per-pupil cost achieved by other more modern schools – that they should be closed. And, what we really need to do is build a large $30 million or so new modern elementary school somewhere out in western Loudoun County … really?
There are lots of politically correct arguments against these small schools. Out-of-date buildings that require too much maintenance. Staffing costs that can’t be sustained. An unrealistic connection to yesterday that allows “elitist” children attend a school right there in their own community … while children in other schools get bussed far away from home.
But, if citizens in Loudoun County interact with their elected (and appointed representatives on any level, it must be to demand that these representatives address the whole of what Loudoun County needs in the name of governance and leadership in the area of education. The schools under consideration for closure don’t just educate our smaller communities’ children. They preserve history – living history and architectural history. The buildings and the communities in which they operate have been doing the same thing for 100 years or more. They model and perpetuate the community-based school concept. No one would argue that what goes on in a small, community based school isn’t valuable to all of us. They instruct us on the appropriate balance between what we spend on schools and what we get back.
As the School Board and, ultimately, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors makes a decision on these Loudoun County gems, they must understand they are making decisions on more than brick and mortar. Their decisions have meaning for all Loudoun County communities, not just the immediate communities these small schools serve.