Board seeks input on St. Paul School

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Carroll school officials need to know if parents want students in Cana community to attend county middle school.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

CANA — Given grade realignments at other Carroll County schools, education officials want to know what people think of the grade structure at St. Paul School.
The plan now in place is to close Woodlawn School, consolidate its students with the eighth grade at Carroll County Intermediate and move the ninth graders to the high school at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
That means there will already be a significant amount of grade shuffling going on that year, once the upgrades to the two facilities in Hillsville are finished.
Some grades at St. Paul School will overlap those at the sixth through eighth grades at the intermediate, to be rechristened Carroll County Middle School.
That has education officials wondering: Do parents at St. Paul want their children going to the middle school in Hillsville or remaining in their community?
There are understandable reasons for either preference, said Superintendent Strader Blankenship. He can see both sides of that issue.
This topic came up briefly at the end of the August meeting of the Carroll School Board, during which school board members decided to hold a special public hearing at St. Paul on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. for the sole purpose of getting citizens’ comments on the grade structure at the county’s southern-most school.
When parents say they want their students to stay at St. Paul for as much of their educational career as possible, that usually relates back to transportation issues on Fancy Gap Highway and Interstate 77.
But Blankenship noted there may be reasons for parents to have their children attend the middle school in the future, such as academic courses or availability of athletics.
Joey Haynes, Fancy Gap representative on the Carroll County School Board, wants all the discussions by educational officials to wait until after the upcoming public hearing.
Getting feedback as early as October gives the elected officials and administrators plenty of time to make any necessary plans.
“There’s got to be some planning done about possibly shifting students around,” the school board member said. “Being from Cana myself, I want to say that St. Paul School is safe and it’s not going anywhere.”
All opinions are welcome. The best way for the school board to gauge the community’s interest is to hold the hearing.
The superintendent also stressed that, if any parents couldn’t make that special hearing, they could share their thoughts and feelings at the regular Nov. 13 school board meeting.
This timeline will give school officials plenty of time to let staff, students and parents know what the final plans will be for the following school year.
“We want to hear what people say and go from there,” Blankenship said. “As soon as this decision is made, we’ll be able to tell everybody in January what it looks like in 2013-2014. This is the first step.”