Mount Vernon parents frustrated over plan to merge elementary and middle schools
Dozens of parents filled a virtual meeting on Wednesday evening, where for the first time, the Mount Vernon City School District revealed its decision to merge its last remaining split elementary and middle schools.
The move, which officials said will save the district money, will take effect in time for the new school year starting next month.
"We have schools that are under-utilized. If there were 14 classes for example only two classes were utilized so the question became why spend money when we have the space?" said Dr. K. Veronica Smith, Mount Vernon acting superintendent of schools.
The plan will move roughly 180 K-5th grade students from the Rebecca Turner Elementary School into the 6-8th grade Benjamin Turner Middle School building.
The former Rebecca Turner building will still house the district's pre-K program kids, as well as an alternative high school.
District officials said they made the internal decision last week, but parents said they weren't notified until Tuesday.
"This either happened really quickly or it's been going on for a long time and they kept everybody in the dark," said Ben Bakke, Rebecca Turner Elementary School PTA president.
Extremely upset parents voiced concerns about the speed at which the plan was rolled out, student safety, and transparency from district officials.
"Change is inevitable but what we really don't understand is why such a major decision is being hoisted on us at the last minute," said Bakke.
School officials tried to calm concerns by highlighting the number of security officers in the building and increasing 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 Dr. Smith.
The meeting ultimately ended abruptly with many parents still demanding answers.
Parents are now calling on the district to delay the decision until all of their concerns can be addressed.