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School study predicts cost savings from closing

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Dr. Christina Catalano, executive director of communication, planning and engagement for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, presented the school board with a study last week concerning the potential effects of closing Cedar Grove Elementary School and moving students to a new elementary school in the Red Oak area, which is currently in the planning process.

Cedar Grove is one of three schools under consideration for closure if and when the new larger school is constructed. Swift Creek Elementary School and Red Oak Elementary School are also being considered for closure and their studies will be presented by the Telegram over the next two days. On Thursday, parents and community members will have the opportunity to learn more and share their opinions at a public hearing.

“In the event that Cedar Grove Elementary School is recommended for closure, it is expected to result not only in significant cost savings for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools but is also expected to directly benefit the affected students,” the study said.

The study was conducted by staff members in the school district with the assistance of information gained from past consultations with third party researchers. The study covered several issues, including facility age and maintenance costs, the current use of the building and its projected use in the future. It also looked at educational and transportation impacts of moving students from Cedar Grove to a new centralized location that would serve all three schools.

Cedar Grove Elementary School, which is located at 8967 Cedar Grove School Loop Road in Nashville, currently serves roughly 202 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Students from this school typically transition to Red Oak Middle Schools in sixth grade, the study said. The maximum capacity of the 27,169-square-foot building is 223 students.

A 2015 facility needs report found that Cedar Grove Elementary School is “in imminent need of significant improvements including the cafeteria and kitchen, the media center, mechanical, electrical, lighting and in ground fuel tanks totaling approximately $1,950,971 in capital costs.” In addition, required deferred maintenance to maintain the current facility would have cost approximately $2,357,461 in capital outlay, according to a 2013 study.

The move should also provide better access to technology and improve conditions for students, the study noted.

“Currently, there is no heat or air in hallways at Cedar Grove Elementary School. This leaves these spaces either too hot or too cold throughout the year,” the study said.

The effect on transportation is one of the main considerations mentioned by parents at previous public forums.

“Currently, Cedar Grove Elementary School has four buses that operate daily to transport students to and from school. The average ride time for students is 29.16 minutes with an average route distance of 15.45 miles. The maximum length of a school bus route for students in Cedar Grove Elementary’s current attendance zone is 63 minutes,” the study said.

If these students are moved to another school near Red Oak and these buses remain in use, the projected ride time for most students should be less, the study said.

“In this consolidation scenario, the maximum ride length would decrease to 53 minutes. Closing Cedar Grove Elementary School and consolidation into a new elementary school may result in shorter ride times and distance traveled for students,” the study said.

Staff members who conducted the study also felt like the change would allow students better access to specialized teachers and would prevent the need to put students in mobile units as mandated class sizes decrease.

“Due to the size of the school, Cedar Grove Elementary has itinerant enhancement and special area teachers. Students at Cedar Grove do not have the benefit of a full-time exceptional children’s teacher, academically or intellectually gifted facilitator, media specialist or art, music and physical education teachers, which results in decreased access to these specialists every day,” the study said. “Overall, students are expected to benefit academically and be afforded greater opportunity by way of additional access to enhancement and special area teachers as a result of the closing of a small elementary school and consolidation into a larger, newer facility.”

The public hearing to discuss these potential school closures will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria of Northern Nash High School.

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