As a court case continues to prevent the Graves County board of education from closing and selling Cuba Elementary the county's superintendent Kim Harrison is responding to comments from supporters of the suit printed in a July 10th edition of Paducah Sun.
In the article, plaintiffs were concerned with the number of students reported to attend the school. Cuba Elementary supporter Richard Jackson said he is concerned the school has not fairly represented the number of children who will be affected by the school’s closure, though the school has reported enrollment correctly. Harrison said “students are not required to attend school prior to Kindergarten, in other words the number of pre-school students does not officially count in the numbers a school has or needs.”
Harrison said the numbers are reported separately and “both numbers have been reported consistently and accurately.”
Plaintiffs allege they have reached out to the defendants for discussion outside of court. Harrison claims she was unaware of any offers to meet. Jackson says the Cuba supporters have been clear that they would like to sit down with the plaintiffs, although they have sent no formal invitation to meet. He says the district’s finance director attended the first Save Cuba Committee meeting and the meetings have “always been aired that one of [the] goals would be to sit down with the board and discuss things to help solve and keep the school open.”
Jackson hopes that, whether through litigation or discussion, children will attend Cuba Elementary in the fall. “We strive on having a good education for our young kids,” Jackson said. “And I feel that the small elementary schools are a big point in developing kids.”
But Harrison says Cuba Elementary would place a strain on the entire district if it were to remain open.
By closing and selling the school, the district can save at least $274,000 per year through decreased staffing, utilities, insurance, and other expenses. Harrison says Wingo and Sedalia elementary schools will be able to meet the children’s educational needs and take in all of the Cuba staff.
Jackson was concerned that the Cuba school building had been neglected, mentioning problems with the roof and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system that have not been fixed even though they were listed to be repaired in the 2007 District Facilities Plan.
Harrison acknowledges the plan, but says it is amended each year to address priority needs for the entire district. The HVAC system at Graves County High School and Lowes Elementary took priority over the needs of Cuba, though neither system has been repaired, said Harrison. Harrison says funding cuts to education have made it difficult to address all of the district’s needs.
The Graves County Board of Education has formed a committee that includes two board members, the board counsel, and Harrison to “have an efficient approach to managing this court proceeding.”
Jackson believes the full school board should be involved with the committee. “I feel that this county elected five board members to represent our school system, and any time you narrow that five down, I think it should not be done," Jackson said. "We have five districts to represent and I feel that the five should be representing now, not two.”