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Sabillasville Elementary facing possible closure

Sarah Harrington

(2/21) For the second time in ten years, the Frederick County School Board is considering the option of closing the Sabillasville Elementary School (SES) due to budget issues within the Board of Education (BoE) and low enrollment at the school. The school, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has a capacity for 160 students, but currently only has an enrollment of approximately 125.

The BoE has calculated that by shutting down Sabillasville Elementary, the school system would save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If the decision to close the school is approved, the school will not close in the upcoming 2015 – 2016 school year, but rather the year after. The purpose of the delay is to allow enough time for the community to weigh in on the possible closing of school.

While the BoE is looking at this from a budget standpoint, the communities that would be affected by this closing see it as a detriment to their daily life. Many have spoken against the closing of SES. Parents and the community feel that they are being singled out and that they will lose a part of their "family" if the school is closed.

Parent Angie Hahn said, "If Sabillasville Elementary School would close, it would be devastating to the students, staff, and community. Sabillasville is its own identity. We understand each other, our land, and our way of life."

SES Parent Group member Aubrey Harbaugh said, "The Superintendent and the Board have made it clear that they are determined to close SES. It is frustrating and troubling that they are completely overlooking the positive aspects of our small school and its value to the school system, our children, and our community. It is obvious that the strategic plan the Superintendent has designed for the school system does not include our children, and that is completely unacceptable."

The community of Sabillasville will not be the only one impacted if the school were to close. Parents of students in Thurmont, where the students of Sabillasville will be bussed, have also begun to voice concern over the potential overcrowding of Thurmont Elementary.

Town Commissioner Marty Burns, liaison to the school board for the town of Thurmont, said he is completely opposed to the closing of SES and having the children bussed to Thurmont. "The negative consequences of this terrible idea will have long-lasting detrimental consequences to Thurmont and its residents," he explained. "We will experience congested roads with more busses; kids will be forced to take school bus rides that will be detrimental to them and their families’ quality of life, not to mention the 30 teachers that will be fired, all to give other teachers a raise."

County Councilman Kirby Delauter is also opposed to closing down SES. Delauter feels that this is a ploy used by the Board to get annual funding increases. He has argued the fact that it does not make sense to shut down a school that has received over $1 million in improvements over the last seven years. Delauter stated that if they are going to close a school due to low enrollment, which would lead to redistricting students, then they should also consider redistricting schools that are overcrowded. Delauter feels the Board avoids this "like the plague."

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