Debate continues over possible cuts to Loudoun Co. public schools

ASHBURN, Va. (WJLA) - Parents, teachers, and students came out to a school board meeting in Ashburn on Wednesday night. They are concerned about potential cuts to Loudoun County Public Schools.

"We cannot afford to lose a paper clip, much more a staff member," said Sugarland Elementary School math resource teacher Patricia Caldwell-Wilson.

Caldwell-Wilson -- along with every other certified teacher in Loudoun County -- was sent a notice Wednesday that their jobs could potentially be eliminated.

"Between attrition and growth, we're not anticipating the loss of a lot of jobs, but legally we have to let people know that's a possibility," said Loudoun schools spokesperson Wayde Byard.

Last week, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 5-3 to pass a budget that increased the school system's local funding by $47 million, bringing it to just under $601 million, an increase of 8.5%.

School officials say that although that may seem like a large amount, they don't believe it's enough. They say the reason is that the county is growing faster than any other in Virginia, and during the recession, their budget didn't keep up with the growth.

"We have to catch up," Byard said. "After several years of decline, we're trying to make up ground."

The school system had asked for about $38 million more than the county board voted to give it, and now wants to use some of that money for raises to help it catch up with what school employees in other places like Fairfax County are making.

On Wednesday night, the school board discussed potential things that may be cut out of the budget for next school year. They include:

-eliminating the elementary school foreign language immersion program
-closing 4 small schools (Aldie Elementary, Hamilton Elementary, Hillsboro Elementary, Lincoln Elementary)
-eliminating summer school
-eliminating bus service to Thomas Jefferson High School
-eliminating after school activity buses
-eliminating freshman sports
-eliminating the Spanish in the Middle Schools program and the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools program
-eliminating assistant athletic director positions
-reducing English Language Learners teacher assistants
-eliminating family life teachers
-eliminating dean positions at middle schools

"Thomas Jefferson High School has provided me with many opportunities that I would have not had," said Abhishek Mogili, a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High who came out to speak against a possible cut of bus service for Loudoun students to the Fairfax County magnet school.

"I know my parents work full-time, so they would not be able to drive me every morning."

Others came to ask the school board not to close the four rural elementary schools on the chopping block.

"We all have such a great sense of community," said Kathleen Hannon, who has a daughter at Hamilton Elementary School. "You can walk down any street and wave and know that person. And to break that up is sad."

Final decisions on what will get funded and what won't are likely to be made by early May.

The main reason a majority of the all-Republican county board of supervisors did not give the school system the full amount it wanted had to do with taxes. In a county that is growing more expensive to live in, most supervisors did not want to raise taxes on the average homeowner.