Sullivan Co. BOE votes to close Weaver Elem. by end of school year

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) - The Sullivan County Board of Education voted Monday to retire Weaver Elementary School in Bristol, Tenn following a recommendation from the Director of Schools.

The Sullivan County Board of Education voted unanimously to close the school at the end of the academic year. The vote comes after the school started dealing with structural issues. Back in September, crews added reinforcement to the building because the library roof was causing the walls to push away from the building.

Crews recently placed several columns around the school to help with the problem.

In February, Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski met with concerned parents after they received letters saying that school leaders have to decide whether to demolish and rebuild the school or shut it down.

After the vote, Rafalowski told News Channel 11 they've made the effort to keep students and staff together instead of rezoning students next fall.

"Kindergarten through 4th will go to our Bluff City Elementary location and our 5th grade from Weaver as well as our 5th grade from Bluff City Elementary will locate at our Bluff City Middle School location," Rafalowski said.

Rafalowski said Bluff City Elementary will become a Pre-K through 4th grade facility and Bluff City Middle School will house 5th through 8th grade. Rafalowski said there is space available at the schools and they're confident about the move.

Board Chairman Michael Hughes said Monday night's decision was passed to not put students at risk for another year, or any longer.

Some of the concerned parents from February's meeting came to Monday night's Board of Education meeting to hear Rafalowski's recommendation and the board's vote.

After the vote, some parents and students left the room visibly upset.

A mom of two Weaver Elementary students disagrees with the decision. Carri Shuttle said the board should have given it at least one more year and she hadn't yet told her children.

"I have to go break that news to them and I know that my 9-year-old is going to be heartbroken, he loves his school, he loves his teachers, he loves everything about it," Carri Shuttle said.

Shuttle was also upset that her two children were counting on another year together and they'll now be separated between Bluff City Elementary and Bluff City Middle.

Rafalowski also said the school bus system will work well, "they'll still get on the school bus but instead of being taken to Weaver they'll be taken to Bluff City." Rafalowski said currently, Bluff City Elementary and middle school students are bused together.

As far as teachers, Rafalowski said there are retirements within the school district and they'll be giving Weaver Elementary personnel some options, working with them individually. Rafalowski also said retirements within the school district are opening up positions at other places and as they move students they're going to need their teachers to follow them as well.

Over 200 hundred students currently attend Weaver Elementary. At this point, school officials don't know what's going to happen to the Weaver Elementary facility after May.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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