Carter County school board votes to close Little Milligan at end of year

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

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By Robert Sorrell

Star Correspondent

Following budget discussions, the Carter County Board of Education on Thursday voted to close Little Milligan Elementary School.

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The school, which has 69 students, will close at the end of the school year following Thursday’s vote during a contentious special-called school board meeting. In addition to closing the school, the board approved next year’s budget.

Several local residents, including Carter County Commissioner Donnie Cable, spoke during the approximately one-and-a-half-hour meeting at the former Keenburg Elementary School campus, which is now the school district’s office.

Cable said county commissioners had not been informed of the school board’s plans, and parents were not given an appropriate amount of time to discuss.

“Don’t just spring it on them,” said Cable, who advised the board to give parents a year to gather and discuss before deciding.

Parent Shelli Smith urged the board to keep the school open and said she would not send her children to Hampton Elementary School if Little Milligan were to close.

“They treat my kids like family,” said Smith, referring to the teachers and staff at Little Milligan.

Smith said she prefers that her children go to a smaller school where they have one-on-one education rather than schools with larger classrooms.

Carter County Director of Schools Brandon Carpenter originally presented a 2024-2025 fiscal year budget without the closure of any school. Instead, the budget made other cuts, including changes to maintenance and transportation. During his report, he said the proposed budget included increases in costs associated with electricity, gas and insurance.

During discussions with board members, Carpenter shared information about the costs to run some of the county’s schools.

It costs about $1.16 million to operate Little Milligan for one year, Carpenter said. As a result, the county spends $16,871 for each student at Little Milligan, he added. The cost does not include food and transportation costs.

In comparison it costs approximately $3.52 million to operate Hampton Elementary School, which is the largest elementary school in the county and has 530 students.

Carpenter also noted that 32 students in the Carter County school system live in Johnson County.

Board member Tony Garland made the motion to close the Little Milligan and it was seconded by Terry Hubbard. Six board members voted in favor of closing the school, Chairman Kelly Crain voted against the motion and Garry Oaks abstained.

With the closure, Carpenter said the county will save $711,000. Following the vote, Carpenter adjusted the proposed budget and added $200,000 to safety upgrades, $135,000 for instructional material, and $376,000 for transportation.

The board then unanimously approved the adjusted budget, which included the closure of Little Milligan.

Students from Little Milligan are expected to transition to Hampton Elementary School, which the system’s transportation staff members said would require about a 45-minute bus ride. Several parents said they believed the bus ride would be longer.