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We're not closing Edneyville school, commissioners say

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners has no plans to close Edneyville Elementary School, two commissioners and the county manager said last week.

Saying that a letter they sent Oct. 11 to the School Board had been misinterpreted, Commission Chair Tommy Thompson, Commissioner Bill Lapsley and County Manager Steve Wyatt seemed to rule out closing Edneyville, the last of the county’s 23 public schools to claim the Yellow Jacket mascot. School closings are a sensitive topic in the apple country, which is still smarting 23 years after the School Board replaced Edneyville High School with the new North Henderson High School, which adopted the Knight as its mascot.
In interviews with the Hendersonville Lightning, the commissioners and Wyatt said the letter's chief point was that there may be a less expensive way to accommodate the school facility needs for the elementary age population in the northern part of the county.
“We have never indicated and we have no intention of ever closing that school,” Thompson said. “That’s the furthest thing from our thoughts. We are not interested and no one has ever said we just need to close it. That’s never been a part of the conservation. The conservation revolved around the statistics that the School Board themselves gave us well over a year ago” showing an enrollment decline in three years. “When you have Clear Creek, Edneyville, Sugarloaf, Dana and Upward so very close together (it was clear) that there was plenty of capacity," Thompson said. "So as far as Edneyville is concerned we cannot think or believe that the capacity is the driving matter that makes them want a brand new school.”
School Board members have not said that more classroom space is the reason they favor a replacement; they have cited concerns about trailers, inadequate library space and generally deteriorating conditions as the main reason for a new school.
Responding to the School Board’s letter conveying the unanimous view that a new Edneyville Elementary is a higher priority than Hendersonville High School, commissioners said it appeared enrollment projections don’t justify a new school at a cost of $25 million.
“A compelling case for the construction of a new elementary school simply has not been presented,” commissioners said. Projections show enrollment declining by 110 students by the 2019-20 school year, the commissioners said.

Edneyville Elementary School's parent association met Tuesday night during which four School Board members and associate schools superintendent John Bryant all said the administration and the elected School Board had no desire to close the school.
Thompson, who lives in Dana and is in the Board of Commissioners district that includes Edneyville, addressed parents' concern that no commissioners attended the meeting.
“We weren’t invited,” he said. “Didn’t know it was taking place. You don’t go where you’re not invited.”
Lapsley also sought to assure Edneyville folks that a school closing is not planned.
“Commissioners have never — not in my presence — made any comment or indicated or suggested that they would close Edneyville Elementary School,” he said.
“We discussed it individually amongst ourselves and we had seen numbers that suggest rather than build an entirely new school” the county could renovate the existing school. “The suggestion was made that perhaps the new students could if they live out on the fringes of the district, that Sugarloaf or Dana may in fact be closer and that would save having to expand the capacity of Edneyville.”
Lapsley said that approach, if the School Board and county commissioners agreed to it, would not involve pulling any existing pupils from Edneyville.
“Again the bottom line is we’re trying to save the taxpayers money,” he added. “If we could move 20 Edneyville students into other schools that have excess capacity then we could save $2 or 3 million. If we can handle those people in existing schools rather than pay for expanding and adding new classrooms at Edneyville that makes sense to me.”
Wyatt said that he had “not been involved in any conversation or overheard any conversation that involved the closing of that school.”
“What we have talked about is what is the best way to approach the need for serving students in that community,” he said. “The School Board’s own statistics show that the census of those students is falling but what I’m hearing from folks in that area are issues of distance to the current location. One thing I talked to a couple of county commissioners about is should it be one school or is there a location somewhere else where instead of a 700 capacity school maybe you build 350 or 400 and maybe you go north or some other direction where the transportation issue is less.
“Let’s be clear,” Wyatt said. “I don’t know. I just ask those questions. There are a lot of questions that have to be asked and answered before you spend $25 million.”
“The key to this thing is continuing the conversation,” he said. “Do I think there will be more conversation face to face with the School Board and county commissioners? I’ve been advocating for that and the commissioners certainly are interested in that. After the School Board election I think you’ll see more conversation about the Hendersonville High School project and Edneyville project.”