Three schools in Rockingham County could close by the 2018 school year

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Rockingham County Schools is telling parents something needs to change. The system needs to find a way to save money and not enough students are going to its schools.

"We don’t have any industry so we don’t have any kids, therefore our schools are suffering,” said Randy Pruitt, a member of the system’s parent advisory committee.

A study done by North Carolina State University shows that most of the schools in the county are well below capacity and the number of students going to schools is expected to decrease. Right now, there are around 4,000 empty seats in classrooms across the county.

“If we don’t have any people in our classrooms, then we are not being good stewards of our tax dollars,” Pruitt said.

The schools system says it could save $1.3 million if it closes Dillard, Draper, and South End Elementary. It will still have the buildings, but students won’t go there. There are a few options as to where the students will go and when the changes could be made.

Some parents we spoke with are not sold on the ideas that were presented to them at one of four meetings about the issue.

Amy Lester’s son goes to Stoneville Elementary. She’s concerned about not only the closures, but about how they change the districts.

"The western district is being proposed to be redistricted so that would increase the classroom size for my child,” Lester said.

William Littrell’s daughter goes to Dillard Elementary. He is concerned about the safety and structure of a school his daughter would have to attend if closures were made.

“The security concerns are for my child. If I fail at that, I fail miserably,” Littrell said.

Some parents don’t want to consider any changes at all.

“Don’t take away what we had our whole life here,” said Kathy Mabe, whose children go to Dillard Elementary.

Parents had many different ideas as to what could fix the systems problems. They were able to give their opinions on survey done at the end of the meeting. Now, they want the school system to listen.

“I really hope that they look at our comments and they consider those heart to heart,” Lester said.

Parents can provide more comments at two upcoming meetings scheduled. There will be a meeting at the Rockingham County High School Auditorium on May 9 at 6 p.m. Another meeting will be at the Reidsville Middle School Cafeteria on May 16 at 6 p.m.

Once the comments are collected, then a plan will be made. The public will be able to give their input on that plan before it goes to the board for approval sometime in the fall or winter of this year.