CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – Hundreds of Chesterfield students could be headed to a new school. The county confirms it's reviewing a plan to close the doors to Chester Middle School. It would then re-open it as a freshman campus, housing students from Thomas Dale High.
With unprecedented economic problems, the school board says it's the best way to alleviate overcrowding at Thomas Dale. Right now, 2,400 students are stuffed into Thomas Dale; a high school built to handle 1,800.
"Thomas Dale is landlocked. There isn't so many land available to do further renovations," said Marshall Trammell, Chesterfield County School Board.
In 1995, the school board discussed moving Thomas Dale out of Chester. The community said no.
"It certainly is with a heavy heart that I share with you, tonight the school board will review plans to close Chester Middle School at the end of this school year," Trammell said.
After evaluating nearly 10 options, district administration think closing Chester Middle and re-opening it next year as a freshman campus is the best and most cost effective solution. Chester would be re-districted. Students would attend either Davis or Carver. Right now the pair is only 60% full.
"We're in this for the long haul. The budget situation is not going to end anytime soon," Trammell said.
Plans to build another high school were put off after the district learned of its multi-million dollar shortfall.
"With the changes proposed all four locations will be below 100% of their functional capacity," said Trammell.
The school board met with Chester faculty Monday.
Trammell says the employment effects could be minimal. Tonight, he and the board are asking parents, like those who protested Monday, to look at the bigger picture. At a time when Chesterfield schools are flourishing, the money just isn't there to expand.
During Monday's meeting, Chester faculty offered alternatives. The school board's looking into them. They also want to hear from parents at a meeting December 16. It's at 7 p.m. at Thomas Dale High School. The final decision will come in January.
The issue will also come up at tonight's school board meeting during the first reading of the capital improvement program. Anyone wanting to speak can attend the meeting, which begins at seven p.m. at the school board administration building.