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So I find out that Augusta County is planning on killing an elementary school…

January 1, 2009, 4:28 PM

While my father and I were out today, he told me that he had heard that Augusta County might be closing Ladd Elementary, which is in Waynesboro.

First of all, before I even researched it, I said it was probably a good idea to abandon the site. First of all, the facility is indeed an Augusta County school, but it’s located within the independent city of Waynesboro. That happened because the area that the school is in was annexed by the city of Waynesboro in the 1980s or so. So it’s an anomaly for being a county school that’s no longer in the county. But it’s also now in the middle of a large shopping district, with Wal-Mart directly across the street, and Home Depot, Martin’s, Target, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, and a plethora of other smaller retailers within a short distance from the school. Traffic is hideous outside the school, with signs for tractor-trailers telling them that the school is not a turn-around. Plus I’m sure some other retailer would snap up the school site in a heartbeat to peddle more crap to people.

Then I found an article in The News Virginian about the plan. How interesting. They want to close and sell the Ladd location in Waynesboro, close Beverley Manor Elementary School near Staunton, and expand Wilson, Cassell, and Riverheads elementary schools to accommodate more students. They say no teachers will lose their jobs, since it’s more of a consolidation than a closing. And the idea of moving the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School into the old Beverley Manor building was tossed around as well. Currently, that facility shares a building with Valley Vocational Technical Center.

So all in all, not a bad plan. And of course, Tracy Pyles, a member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors from the Pastures district, has his own plan. His plan is not only to kill Ladd Elementary and Beverley Manor Elementary, but also kill Beverley Manor Middle School. Elementary students would then move into the Beverley Manor Middle School building, and then to compensate for the loss of Beverley Manor Middle School, Pyles advocates changing Churchville, Craigsville, North River, Beverley Manor, and Riverheads elementary schools from a K-5 configuration to a K-7 configuration. Then Buffalo Gap and Riverheads high schools would accommodate eighth graders plus the standard complement of grades 9-12.

I believe I am now thoroughly convinced that Tracy Pyles is an idiot, and am wondering why the residents of the Pastures district keep electing him. Recall that in 2003, Pyles suggested building a new high school in Fishersville and turning the existing high school into a middle school. That was a bad idea, and his plan for playing musical schools was politely ignored. Now, he’s at it again, with his whole musical-schools concept, but twenty times worse. This time, he’s essentially creating a separate two-tiered system for students in the western part of the county and depriving them of the middle school experience. I for one am a strong advocate of people having a middle school experience. Middle school was the most rewarding experience I had from K through 12, and I am very glad I had it. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was already outgrowing the elementary school format. Sixth grade being middle school was a blessing, because it was a format that I could handle a lot better than the elementary format, and having a team of teachers working together to teach a group of students allows a lot of interconnection that you just don’t have in high school. That coordination was something I missed in high school, since it really was great to learn about a single topic (such as the middle ages) from all different angles. And my teachers were so supportive in middle school. In fact, I still keep in contact with some of them today.

Plus of course converting a purpose-built middle school to an elementary school would require a bit of renovation, as an elementary school program has no use for Phys. Ed locker rooms, hallway locker areas, a forum, shop areas, home economics rooms, etc. That would incur a large cost in rebuilding those spaces into something else suitable for elementary students – likely more than just expanding three elementary schools, since Pyles’s plan would require renovating a middle school, plus expanding seven elementary schools and potentially two high schools as well. Not a good idea, in my opinion, as the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) should be followed here.

If everyone is smart, they will once again ignore Tracy Pyles’s outlandish suggestions, and if the residents of the Pastures district are smart, someone will challenge him next time he comes up for election, and run him out of office. I, unfortunately, have never had a say in Pyles’s electoral fortunes. I live in Maryland now, but when I did live in Augusta County, I lived in the South River district, and had my own supervisor that I could vote to toss out on his butt if need be.

Web site: With this, Augusta County sank to a new low, with their "I'm Voting For The Chick" signs relating to Sarah Palin in the 2008 election. Learning of those signs was a moment when I was glad to say I don't live there anymore.

Song: My sister is watching Virginia Tech football in the other room, and so whatever's going on with that. I personally can't stand watching football, both on TV and in person.

Quote: Isn't it funny that despite having left the area more than a year and a half ago, I'm still writing about Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta County issues? What can I say? I did most of my growing up here, and my parents still live here, and so I still consider myself as an interested party. When it comes to Montgomery County, Maryland, where I actually do live, I really need to become more involved with the local political scene, since I know next to nothing about it...