By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor
MAPLE GROVE-It actually happened only a short two weeks ago, but the closure of Maple Grove School here had been considered for many long years.
Clay County school board members voted 6-4 to close the smallest public school in Tennessee at their June meeting, putting an end to epic speculation.
Recently released meeting minutes said “the consideration of closing Maple Grove School was discussed” and explained “members of the audience were given the opportunity to speak for three minutes each to express their feelings on the issue.”
Minutes detailed the vote showing board member Jerry Eads made the motion to close the school and Nathan Sherrell seconded it before they, along with Chris McLerran, Todd Lynn, Russell Cherry, and chairman David West, voted “aye,” while Veda Hix, Benji Bailey, Vonda Weir, and Anthony Smith were opposed to the decision and voted “no.”
With that, Maple Grove became the latest budget-cut casualty, but the nearly sixty-year-old institution had previously survived the proposed fate for the better part of a decade.
The school had avoided the chopping block in 2006 when Hermitage Springs High School was consolidated into the current Clay County High School and discussion about the possible closure had continued since that time.
As reported on the front page of the November 15, 2006 HORIZON, Hermitage Springs lost their high school by a similar 6-4 vote, but board members voted 7-3 to keep Maple Grove open citing the recommendations of a consolidation study completed on both schools.
A story detailing the study appeared in the November 11, 2006 HORIZON and explained the study found closing Maple Grove would “result in a teaching positions savings of over $222,000” and additionally would also result in a “savings of over $13,000 in utilities.”
The story said, despite those overwhelming numbers of nearly eight years ago, the study “did not recommend making any changes at Maple Grove” at that time “due to the proposed LaGardena real estate development, which could impact economic and population growth in the area”–a project that never happened and is no longer in the works.
When the high school consolidation took place a week after the study was released, board members voted to “postpone any action on Maple Grove and to review that situation again next year,” according to the HORIZON archives.
The board did just that a year later as they revisited the decision in the fall of 2007 and the HORIZON again reported the results from the meeting in its November 28, 2007 edition.
The story explained there was “several minutes” of discussion on the topic, but said “in the end, no action was taken by the board and no date was set to discuss the issue again.”
That date came on June 6, 2013 as the school that had been at its present location since 1954 was closed with the board citing “partially unfunded mandates and Clay County’s inability to fund the matching amount of money required to pay for the mandates” as evidence for the decision, according to last week’s news release from the school system’s central office.
It also explained “meeting the required spending is placing the school system budget in financial jeopardy,” and led to “board members (struggling) with the painful decision” of closing the school.
“A 34-cent property tax increase would have been required to stabilize the school fund balance,” the release said.
The release also said the school system has made “over $600,000 in cuts from its budget since May, 2012,” not including the Maple Grove closure, and explained more cuts “will have to occur for the school system to remain solvent.”