Death of Small Schools: Part 2

For Berna Bibbs-Snipes teaching at Graham Elementary was a family tradition.

She and her twin sister taught there at the same time as they followed in the foot steps of their mother, who was also a teacher at the school.

"The family atmosphere was just phenomenal. You just could not believe it,” Bibbs-Snipes said.

So a few years ago when the Muhlenberg County School District began discussing closing several community elementary schools, Berna had mixed feelings at the thought of losing her second home.

"Graham was home, that was it, nothing else. Graham was home, Graham is where I wanted to retire from,” Bibbs-Snipes said.

The superintendent of the Muhlenberg County School District, Dale Todd, said the board of education had a tough choice to make: to renovate the older buildings or to close the schools and move forward.

"Three years ago we had eight elementary schools and four of those schools were category five schools, which means they were very old buildings,” Todd said.

Todd said Muhlenberg County had more category five schools than any other district in the state.

"We had roofing issues at these old buildings, air conditioner problems, and window units so it was hard to hear in the classrooms. We had some mold and some issues in the some classrooms where we had to deal with, heating and cooling issues,” Todd said.

Todd said after looking at the options the district chose to close Drakesboro, Lake Malone, Graham and Hughes Kirk Elementaries. By doing that the district could build two new schools.

"The advantages that these students have instructional-wise is just overwhelming,” Todd said.

Todd also said the new schools Greenville and Muhlenberg South Elementary are helping to bring the residents of the various small communities closer together.

"We have a lot of strategies to try to pull the communities together. There's a lot of rivalries between communities here because of basketball and other traditions, and we're trying to pull everyone together and put everybody on the same page" Todd said.

As for Berna Bibbs-Snipes, Graham will always have a special place in her heart.

"A lot of times you still feel that hurt, you still feel that pain, but you know in time it does change,” Bibbs-Snipes said.

However, she's happy to have started a new chapter at Longest Elementary.

"I had to come to the realization that it was just a chapter that has been closed, but another chapter was about to be written,” Bibbs-Snipes said.

One of the goals of the consolidation process was to help the district save money.

Superintendent Todd said he's currently crunching those numbers.

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