A two-cent reduction in property tax allocation for the Hawkins County School system has filtered to at least two schools.
Fourth and fifth grade students at Keplar Elementary School will be transferred to Hawkins Elementary School under a plan adopted by the Hawkins County Board of Education Thursday.
In a three-hour meeting, the board addressed a two-cent reduction in funding in the fiscal year 2019-20 budget. That two cents will be used for needed repairs in other county departments. That reduction took away $205,000 from the school system, leaving a $175,000 deficit.
Due to two teachers at Keplar leaving for other positions, and school beginning on August 5, the board decided to forego hiring for those two positions to send the affected students to Hawkins Elementary School in Rogersville for the upcoming school year.
Hawkins Elementary is located eight miles away from Keplar.
Parents of affected students may transfer their children to other schools within the Hawkins County system, as long as there is availabile space. Transportation will be provided to Hawkins Elementary only.
Director of Schools Matt Hixson said that this was not a decision to close Keplar School, one of the oldest schools in Hawkins County. Keplar has 98 students. The school has sections of the building that are 60 to 70 years old.
“Hopefully with the savings from this move, that will go toward plugging the hole that has been created with our loss of two cents,” Chairman Bob Larkins said.
In 2014, the school system received a 12-cent increase in property tax funds from the county. With this latest reduction, the system has given 11.5 cents of that 12 cents back to the county.
Meanwhile, the fourth and fifth grade students at Keplar will travel.
“The central office and the principal will tag team that and notify the students personally. If we can’t reach them, we will conduct phone calls, home visits, whatever is needed to make sure they understand. A first attempt will be a meeting at the school, but in the summer months it may be tough to get everyone together. We wanted to have board action before we set anything into motion and started to create a panic,” Hixson said.
“We don’t make these decisions lightly, however, it makes the most sense on a variety of fronts. We’re going to attempt it and see how it works. That’s why this is not a discussion about closing the school site,” Hixson said. “It’s a discussion on halting a staffing decision that would impact us with $100,000 plus salary. We would not be on the hook for those salaries if we don’t back fill those positions.”
When discussing the possibility of sending fourth and fifth graders to Hawkins Elementary, Hixson said the number of students affected are 15 fourth-grade children and 23 fifth-grade children. The school will now serve grades K-3.
In the current kindergarten class, there have only been nine students to register for the upcoming school year.
The next board of education meeting will be held Aug. 1 at Volunteer High School in Church Hill.