The historic, first black high school in Dinwiddie County is closing. The School Board voted to close the now middle school last night. The move helps close a $4.2 million budget shortfall.
The school's more than 680 students will be filtered into the existing junior and senior high schools. The junior high will now seat sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The high school will house traditional freshman through senior classes.
Dinwiddie Middle School has significant meaning for many people in the community, especially those who attended the school during the segregated 1950s and 1960s. However, there are promises to keep its history from becoming a closed book.
"I think the biggest concern from the community… being a historic, black high school… is that we would just walk away from that building and board it up. That was not the plan from the beginning," said David Clark, the superintendent of Dinwiddie County Public Schools.
The School District says it will keep the building in use. A committee is being formed to decide its new purpose, perhaps a museum or a place for GED classes. However, one day, Dinwiddie's bell could ring again.
"If things change, if the economy picks up, if we see growth, then (keeping the building under the School District's control) gives us the flexibility in future years to possibly do something different if we have to," said Clark.
Even after kids filtered into the junior and senior high schools, both buildings will still be under capacity by at least 200 students. For the last few years, the School District had expected enrollment to spike, with the expansion of Fort Lee. That never happened. In fact, enrollment dropped by nearly 300 kids. The School District said it was paying for use of a building that it didn't need.
"We have more capacity than students, and our funding from state is tied to that capacity. We had to look at ways to try to save money," added Clark.
Parents, like Bridgette Talley, said the change appears to make sense.
"It is too many buildings. Why waste the money...just combine everybody," said Talley, whose daughter will enter the junior high school next fall.
The school district also had to compensate for losing about $4 million in state and federal funding over the last four years. Clark says closing the school was the only option besides cutting teacher positions. The consolidation is saving the District $900,000.
No teachers will be laid off after the changes. However, Clark said a small number of administration or custodial positions may be cut.
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