School board vote closes Maple Grove; State’s smallest public school becomes budget cut casualty

END OF AN ERA-Due to funding issues, school board members voted to close Maple Grove School last week.

END OF AN ERA-Due to funding issues, school board members voted to close Maple Grove School last week.

MAPLE GROVE-The end of an era has come.

Maple Grove School, the smallest public school in the state of Tennessee, will not be welcoming students this fall for the first time in nearly six decades, according to a news release from the Clay County School System.

“At (last) Thursday’s school board meeting, board members struggled with the painful decision to close the Maple Grove School, but could not argue with the financial despair that lies just over the horizon for education in Clay County,” the release said.  “At the regular session Clay County School Board meeting, Maple Grove School was closed by a vote of six to four.”

The information from the school system’s central office explained the school had been in its present location since 1954 and had 36 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade.

The release said “partially unfunded mandates and Clay County’s inability to fund the matching amount of money required to pay for the mandates were cited as reasons for closing the unique school.”

The release also said required spending for the mandates has more than doubled in the past four years, while state and federal funding have both been drastically reduced.

It went on to explain “meeting the required spending is placing the school system budget in financial jeopardy,” and said “a 34-cent property tax increase would have been required to stabilize the school fund balance.”

The release also said a 25 to 30-cent increase will be needed to meet the demands of required health care reform.

The information from the school system said Clay County’s current property tax rate is the third highest in Tennessee, with only Davidson and Shelby County having higher rates.

In response to the dilemma, the school system said they have made “over $600,000 in cuts from its budget since May, 2012” and explained more cuts “will have to occur for the school system to remain solvent.”