Closing middle, alternative schools can cut IOW budget

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

by Herb DeGroft

Reducing the Isle of Wight County Schools budget to $56 million can be done by closing Windsor Middle School and the Alternative School and sending seventh- and eighth-graders to Windsor High School.

Keep the sixth-graders at Carrsville and Windsor elementary schools.

The total number of students at Windsor High School would be about 725 — 100

under capacity. The 221 seventh- and eighth-graders will easily fit in one or 1½ wings of the present Windsor High School. Historically, there have not been any real student discipline/control issues when it was Windsor High-Windsor Middle School.

The only issue was when at 900-plus students in the late 1990s was simply overcrowding.

The 2008 Demographic Study shows fewer students as we proceed through 2017. This is born out when you look at the number of students coming up from lower grades.

Capacity will never be an issue as the numbers continue the slow slide downward through the decade to 2020. It can be faster due to the closing of International Paper and no employer of that stature looming on the horizon for Isle of Wight County in the near future.

We really need the demographic study updated. Why is this being resisted? Afraid we’ll learn something we won’t like?

Yes, housing developments can begin, but even the ones planned would not contribute but seven children per age bracket, per census average, of children per household. And houses can only be bought by people with jobs bringing in adequate income.

A lot of “ifs” exist before a new middle school has to be built; nothing justifies doing anything but saving $903,000 per year into the future, and that nebulous date for another Windsor Middle School. And then not for 500, when you will please note enrollment has gone from 396 in 2001 down to 327 in January 2011.


Moving it back to Smithfield High School — the original location — will save $110,000 in salaries and benefits if the site principal is the manager over the Alternative School as was the case in the past.

Also, busing can be done of roughly a dozen Windsor students to Smithfield High School in a van versus a bus carrying 20-plus Smithfield students to Windsor (fuel efficiency).

Presently the Alternative School averages 30 to 35 students. By the way, in the opinion of a retired school principal, there was no reason to have moved it from Smithfield High School to the Windsor Middle School site and spend nearly $100,000 to renovate the current building, all things considered.

The “nice to do” $560,000 pay increase must simply be zeroed out. In view of the additional budget reduction, there is

no real business reason to support doing this. Yes, it would be nice, but Santa’s bag does not have any extras in it this year, again.

I know this is difficult for several of you to stomach, but reality is reality. Isle of Wight County, and we as a school board, cannot be frivolous in any way when it comes to this budget and looking forward.

We have to minimize the financial impact going forward because the revenue future is unknown, because as is known, “nothing is a sure thing.”

These are my thoughts on additional required budget reductions as we proceed to the May 5 school board meeting where the “moment of truth” awaits us again.

HERB DEGROFT is an Isle of Wight County School Board member, representing the Hardy District. He can be reached at