Members of the Lincoln Elementary School community in Loudoun County have become familiar with this routine over the years: When searching for ways to bridge constant funding gaps during budget season, the Loudoun School Board often considers closing one or more of the county’s oldest and smallest elementary schools.
In the past, emphatic feedback from parents and other community members has prevented those closures from going forward, despite the cost of maintaining the aging facilities.
During a budget discussion last week, the School Board once again broached the possibility of shuttering Lincoln Elementary, a national blue-ribbon school that serves about 130 students. The issue will be a prime topic at a public hearing Tuesday night in the Loudoun County School Administration Building in Ashburn.
Faced with mounting costs to repair and maintain the building – over $300,000 would be required to fund upgrades to the school’s fire alarm system, electrical system and the replacement of several HVAC units, according to LCPS staff – Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) asked Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III to report back to the board with more details on what would be involved in closing the school.
But several members of the Lincoln Elementary community said they would fight the closure of their beloved school.
About 20 parents gathered Monday morning to organize ahead of the public hearing, according to Leslie McFadden, who has two children enrolled at the school. Her oldest child is a graduate of Lincoln, she said, and her youngest — a kindergartner — hopes to go there, as well, McFadden said.
“We’re just making sure that we’re hitting some of the key points we want to go over, that we’re not just coming in being emotional,” McFadden said. “We want to be logical in our arguments.”
McFadden, who previously worked as an engineer in Fairfax County and helped local systems prepare their capital improvement programs, said she planned to question the claim by School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) that the required maintenance costs at Lincoln Elementary amounted to about $2,500 per student this year.
The actual number McFadden maintained, is lower than the district average of about $110 per student.
“He’s not taking into account the capital expense over the life of [the upgrades],” she said. “The math is a little more complex.”
By Tuesday morning, nearly 40 speakers had signed up to address the board in defense of Lincoln Elementary, according to Mary Litton, a parent of two students at Lincoln. Litton said that small village schools like Lincoln help attract families to the county. Many parents are looking for a more intimate setting for their children’s education, she said.
“Even though our school is small, it has an impact on the county,” Litton said. “Not only do our school’s national and state awards bolster Loudoun County’s reputation, but our small schools provide a choice of lifestyle in a suburban county.”
The public input session will take place at 6:30 p.m..