Mount Vernon parents express safety concerns following district’s plan to merge elementary and middle schools

Mount Vernon parents express safety concerns following district’s plan to merge elementary and middle schools

The Mount Vernon City School District’s recent announcement that they will merge one of its elementary schools with a middle school has upset some parents within the community.
The district’s plan is to move around 180 students from the Rebecca Turner Elementary School to the neighboring Benjamin Turner Middle School.
The Rebecca Turner building will still house the district's pre-K program, as well as an alternative high school. Administrators say they have schools that are underutilized, and the move saves the district money.
They also say they made the decision to combine the two schools last week, but parents didn't find out until Wednesday.
Some parents throughout the community have expressed safety concerns in response to the plan. However, school officials say they will have plenty of security officers in the building. They also say there will be increased faculty to keep different age groups separated throughout the day.
"We plan on providing your students with care. Ultimately, we're here about educating kids,” said Mount Vernon acting schools superintendent Dr K. Veronica Smith.
The plan is set to go into effect in time for the new school year beginning next month. Parents tell News 12 that they are unhappy with a big change being announced on such short notice. Some are also calling for the district to delay the decision until all their voices can be heard.
"It seems like it should be a big decision that would require stakeholder input,” said Rebecca Turner Elementary School PTA President Ben Bakke.
Sharmaine Bagby has a nonverbal child with special needs who attends pre-K at Rebecca Turner Elementary School. She was among several parents present for the district’s announcement during a virtual meeting on Wednesday night.
Bagby says she is concerned about putting students with special needs of vastly different ages in the same building.
"I have a kid that can't speak. You see so much going on in the news. If something happens to my kid, she can't verbally tell me,” she said. "You're just throwing my kid to the wolves."