The closing of a small elementary school in a rural corner of our county would seem to be a small issue to most. However, as a Sabillasville resident, I take issue with the extremely concerning process undertaken by our school system’s superintendent and board in the closing of Sabillasville Elementary School and believe it to be a clear example of how our county officials view their relationship with our rural communities in general.
Just as an example, throughout this process the deferred maintenance of the facility has been a main criteria that the superintendent and board point to as a reason that the school should be closed. In fact, at many different times, specifically immediately before the final vote to close the school, it was stated that the school was built in 1964 and has had no additions or renovations. This same information is presented in the superintendent’s official report on the legal criteria required for closing a school and included in this version is the explanation that $1.7 million of the $4.2 million of deferred maintenance is in needed upgrades to the HVAC system.
This characterization of the building’s history is at best misleading. The fact is, the building has been exceptionally maintained throughout the years and has also been upgraded and renovated multiple times recently. This building only contained window unit air conditioners until 2008 (for over 40 years) when a central HVAC system was installed, which included an electrical upgrade and other necessities needed with an initial install. The winning bid for this project was just under $900,000 in 2008, which is the reason our community questions why an upgrade or maintenance is already “deferred” and projected to cost $1.7 million, almost twice what the initial install from scratch cost in 2008.
I believe this small specific example of officials being comfortable stating publicly and in an official report that this building has not had any renovations since 1964, even though a simple search would show not only a major HVAC renovation but also a complete roof replacement in 2011 with a 20-year cost free warranty, as representative of the lack of consequence officials feel in dealing with our rural communities. This lack of consequence is symptomatic of a lack of representation for our rural communities and a withdrawal of resources from our rural communities.
If our county leaders do actually value our rural and agricultural heritage as they claim, and would like to ensure it for future generations, then they need to ensure that our remaining rural and agricultural communities survive and do not just become heritage and rural roads.
Robert Lee Koontz III