Budget may force school to close

March 18, 2011 3:27:53 PM PDT
For the past ten years, Academy Heights Elementary School in Moore County has been honored for its academic success, but the superintendent says budget woes have forced her to recommend closing the year-round school.

Academy Heights was built nearly 80 years ago, and parents are going out of their way to make sure their children have a chance to attend the school.

"My husband makes an extra 45 minute commute each day," parent Heather Holloway said. "Total an hour and time minutes just to be able to have the privilege to go to this school."

The school consistently ranks amongst the best in the state, but Superintendent Susan Purser says the old building is costly to maintain and its programs can be consolidated at another school. Closing it is one of about 20 cost cutting recommendations she has made to help trim an $8.2 million school budget deficit.

"And it would provide an annual savings of about half a million dollars," Purser said.

Parents spent Friday coming up with ways to stop the possible shutdown and displacement of top performing teachers.

"And you're going to take those guys out of the system?" parent Michael Hawess asked. "Or make them compete for a job at another school where another teacher has a vested interest with an existing principal. It just seems awkward to us."

Closing the school is not a done deal. The final decision is up to the Board of Education. While the superintendent is recommending the school be closed, what she says won't shut down is the quality of education Academy Heights students will receive at their new schools.

"It's not the place, it's the service -- the support we provide to our children as we provide a high-quality educational experience for them," Purser said. "And so, I see that continuing."

Parents met with Purser Thursday. They'll have one more chance to try to save their school Monday night. There's a meeting with the Board of Education at Union Pines High School at 6 p.m.

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