Parents rally to keep Moore elementary school open

Posted March 16, 2011 5:22 p.m. EDT
Updated March 16, 2011 6:45 p.m. EDT

— Moore County Schools officials have targeted a top-performing elementary school for closure, but parents are campaigning to keep its classrooms open.

Academy Heights Elementary School in the Taylortown community was built in 1934, and Superintendent Susan Purser said Wednesday that the year-round school is too small for its 250 students and is costly to maintain. Closing the school would save the district about $500,000 as it tries to cut about $8.2 million from its budget to keep pace with shrinking state support, she said.

"We've looked at every single program, even activities, in the district to determine where we could provide a reduction," Purser said. “We cannot do much with that facility.”

Parents of Academy Heights Elementary students, however, say the school does a lot for their children.

"This is the kind of school where everyone knows your child. They know your name," said Carol Ray, president of the school PTA. "What goes on in those walls is so much more important (than the age of the walls)."

Academy Heights Elementary consistently ranks among the top schools in North Carolina. It met all nine of its annual targets in the 2009-10 school year, according to the North Carolina School Report Cards, and 98.4 percent of its students perform at or above grade level.

Ten other Moore County primary and elementary schools met adequate yearly progress goals last year, while four did not, according to the School Report Cards.

"To close down the school, essentially, with the best marks, it's devastating," Ray said. "I don't think closing a school – a well-performing school – is the answer."

She and other parents are circulating petitions to convince the school board to keep the school open. The board is expected to vote on the district's 2011-12 budget on April 4.

"I have never been anywhere where anyone has had such a great reputation in a public school," parent Karen Decker said.

“We just want to keep our school intact,” said Elizabeth Bode, a parent of two Academy Heights Elementary students. “Our teachers are the most important part – the teachers, the parents and the kids that are in our school.”

Purser, who plans to meet with parents Thursday evening, said the students would be split between Southern Pines Primary School and Southern Pines Elementary School, and teachers would be reassigned to other schools.

Although Southern Pines Elementary had only 76.3 percent of its students performing at or above grade level last year, Purser said the proposed reassignment wouldn't hurt Academy Heights Elementary students.

"The students will continue to be successful. The teachers will continue to be successful," she said. "This will not diminish the academic opportunities for our students at all."