Mourning for Lawrence School

DART-Newport resident Jamie McAfee said she will pull her children from the Frontier Local district in the wake of the Frontier Local Board of Education’s decision to close Lawrence Elementary School.

And she’s not alone.

Parents, teachers and students responded with anger, sadness and tears Tuesday to the long-discussed Monday night vote to close the small community school after this school year, due to decreasing enrollment coupled with financial woes.

“They have made a terrible mistake, and I give it two to three years before we’re back at it again,” McAfee said. “Closing Lawrence is like putting a bandage on a bullet wound.”

As news sunk in Tuesday, many said they were mourning the upcoming loss of the nearly 100-year-old, 40-student school, even if some said they understood why the decision had to be made.

Barbara Richards, a kindergarten-through-second grade teacher at Lawrence, has been at the school for 41 years, and was planning on retiring at the end of next year.

“I hated to see how the vote came out, because I wanted to end my career here,” she said. “It’s a great school and it’s been a nice journey.”

Richards said that because she has one year left, she is trying to stay positive as she looks at her options.

“Still, I don’t even think they will know who is going where until the day school starts,” she said.

Mother of two Kimberly Moore said she and her husband uprooted their family from their home in Cumberland and started renting a house in Dart so that her children could have smaller class sizes and more individual attention at Lawrence.

“I’m just afraid of their education next year, and worried about the big class sizes they’ll face, because they have never gone to a big school,” she said. “And the district has been stringing them along, and the kids have been unstable not knowing where they would be going to school the next year.”

McAfee said she chose to open enroll her two children at Lawrence Elementary because her oldest son does not perform well in large classes.

She said she feels there could have been more alternatives besides just targeting Lawrence, suggesting the idea of even putting all kindergarten through eighth grade students at the current Frontier High School and putting grades nine through 12 at Newport Elementary.

“I will not keep my kids in this district, we are currently looking at our options,” McAfee said.

Her daughter Allyson, a first grader at Lawrence, said she doesn’t understand the closure of the school.

“I don’t want them to close the school because it’s a good school,” she said.

Her brother Brayden, a fifth grader, echoes his sister’s feelings.

“I have a lot of memories at this school, this is where my friends are, and I don’t want to go to a big school,” he said.

Frontier Superintendent Bruce Kidder spent Tuesday at Lawrence Elementary, speaking to students about what comes next and reassuring faculty that the district is doing whatever it can to accommodate them.

“Both schools and their principals are looking forward to having those students because they’re good students, and because Lawrence performs well academically,” he said.

Brad Eddy has been teaching fifth and sixth grade at Lawrence for five years, and said though the decision is disappointing, he is ready to make do.

“The community is not happy because it’s a tight community, but it is happening and we have to do our best with where we end up,” he said.

Where Lawrence students will be transferred will mostly be based on busing routes, but Kidder said because the district allows open enrollment, parents will be given discretion if they want their child at a certain school.

“Our options in this area are so limited, especially with private school tuition,” McAfee said. “But I’m willing to home school them.”

Both McAfee and Moore said they have already considered and researched home school programs, as well as different private schools like Wood County Christian School, and McAfee has even expressed interest in starting a home school outlet in the area to help families without Internet connections.

“This school is locked in, safe and quiet, and we like it that way,” Moore said. “We have even offered to turn this into something we would pay tuition to attend.”

Lawrence Elementary is located on Ohio 26 in Lawrence Township and is currently staffed by three full-time teachers, one part-time teacher, a secretary and a custodian, along with Kidder. Food currently is transported to the school from Newport Elementary.