Sullivan Co. community reacts to potential school shutdown

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- News that Sullivan County Schools may have to shut down next month over a budgetary issue isn’t sitting well with parents and faculty.

MORE: Sullivan County Schools at odds with county commission over system potential closure as state funding deadline looms

Director of Schools David Cox said the budget submitted by the Sullivan County Commission didn’t meet the state’s Maintenance of Effort Test, which ensures local funding per student is not decreased from year-to-year.

Beginning in October, the school system could lose more than $4 million dollars of state funding monthly if the County Commission and the Board of Education fail to fill an $800 thousand budgetary gap.

James Kramer’s 4 year-old Jojo, who goes to Rock Springs Elementary School, is one of more than 9 thousand students in the district who would be impacted.

Kramer said he’s concerned about the cost of childcare if his kids have to stay home. “Honestly we could not afford childcare for all three of our kids so either my wife or I would have to resign our job,” he said.

If schools are forced to close, Cox said school district employees would receive earned compensation after daily operations are resumed.

“I’ve got a wife and a little daughter and another little one on the way so to not know if you’re going to get a paycheck in a few weeks is pretty scary,” said Bryan Upshaw, who teaches Spanish at Sullivan South High School.

If too much school is missed, Cox said the academic year could be extended.

“How far is that going to go? That’s a lot of vacations and stuff like this that’s going to be impacted,” said Judy Carroll.

Faith and Budd Heart, grandparents of a Miller Perry Elementary School first grader, said they don’t want to see learning interrupted.

“They’re building on what they learned yesterday. If there’s a long time in between there’s going to be a little bit of a relearning period for them,” said Budd.

“Children need that routine,” Faith furthered.

Jennifer Payne, who has four children in the school system, said routine is especially important for her student with autism.

“Getting them off of that schedule and getting them away from their peers really effects them,” she said.

She’s also worried that extracurriculars like athletics could be suspended.

“So ya’ll need to come to an agreement and pull your heads out of your butts,” Payne said.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to hold a Special Called Meeting on Wednesday, October 2nd at 6 PM to discuss funding solutions.

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