Questions over the possible closure of Monteagle School spread throughout the community of Monteagle on Tuesday, August 27, causing anger and disbelief among school staff, parents, and students. Parents looked to social media to vent their feelings while school principal Janet Layne worked to stop the rumors and find out what the future of the school holds.
“I have many concerns,” said Layne on Friday. “It is my understanding that the school will not be closing but there is a chance we will go to a Pre-K through 5th grade school next year. If that happens, I stand to lose our basketball teams, volleyball, Student Council, Beta Club, and Band, only to name a few of the activities that make this a great school.”
Monteagle School has been an institution in the community for more than a hundred years.
Jerry White, the curator of the Monteagle History Facebook page attended the school in the early 1950s and has fond memories of his time there. He says some people may remember the white building to the side of the current structure that once served as the one-room classroom before it became the school lunchroom and a kindergarten classroom.
“I would hate to see the school lose any students, or see them close it. It would be like taking history away from Monteagle,” says White.
With a current enrolment of 282 students in Pre-K through grade 8, a loss of approximately 120 middle school students next year will hit the school hard. “Losing these students will mean that I have to cut my staff, six middle grade teachers, and there is a possibility I could lose my assistant principal. These are great teachers. If you look at their scores you will see that three of the teachers in the middle grades hall received all 5’s in overall effectiveness on their state scores,” says Layne.
The Marion County School Board would have a difficult time finding a more dedicated leader than Layne. She discovers new teachers, encourages them as they continue to develop their teaching skills, and many stay with the school for years. Layne says she has three main priorities as an educational leader, “I support my educational staff and provide a safe learning environment; I provide the highest standards of education by holding children and teachers accountable and providing qualified teachers; and I build a supportive community of parents and teachers.”
This may be the key to the success of Monteagle School, and the reason for the outrage when the rumors of the school losing its middle grades and eventually closing spread through the community.
Vonna Layne currently has two students enrolled at the school. She says they are fifth generation Monteagle School students and the school is both a part of their heritage and their future.
“No one asked us about the school closing or the closing of the middle school, said Vonna Layne. “They have tried to close the school for years. My children would not go down the mountain to Marion County. I don’t know where I would send them, I might even consider homeschooling.”
Mark Griffith, Director of Schools in Marion County, addressed the issue in a letter to Monteagle Mayor Marilyn Rodman on Friday, August 27. He stated the school board was currently doing a study to see continuing the middle school program at Monteagle School was cost effective for the county. He went on to say “the topic of closure is not at all suggested for one reason I do not like the idea of busing small children down the mountain and for the second reason we are at full capacity in all of the valley schools.”
With the school’s outcome still undetermined, Dr. Jay Trussler, who attended the school, says he hopes the community can come together and show their support. “Monteagle School is a bedrock of the community with many outstanding students who have gone on to further their education at Grundy County High School and become leaders in this community and in many other communities. It is my hope that the decision makers will swallow their pride as well as their political differences and realize the school needs to continue to exist and provide necessary education to students on the mountain.”