The attempt to close Gateway Education Center was one that shook Guilford County and beyond. Gateway Education Center is one of the four separate schools that service severely disabled and medically fragile children. The services Gateway provides children and families is remarkable. It was shared in testimony by parents who advocated against the closure that Gateway was not just a place their child could thrive, but a place that helps their families survive.
The gross exaggerations on the supposed hazardous building conditions spearheaded by the superintendent of Guilford County Schools, Dr. Sharon Contreras, and the some of the board members was appalling and simply just that - gross exaggerations. Teachers were not allowed to speak out and tell the truth so parents and fellow supporters had to take a strong stance to advocate for the most vulnerable and that they did!
This was a fight that went on for weeks as parents begged and pleaded before our County Commissioners and Board of Education meeting after meeting. Already stressed and fatigued families rallied the community by emailing and calling elected officials, speaking at meetings, exposing their personal lives to the media for interviews, and petitioning the community for support. The support these efforts produced was not only heartwarming, but huge.
Not sure if you are aware, but there is actually NC state law on how to close a public school. This law was broken by our very own Superintendent and she was never held accountable for it. Although there had been no formal announcement, no public hearing, and no policy, protocol, or law followed the decision had been made. Parents found out about their severely disabled child’s school closing by phone call, letter, or word of mouth. State law clearly requires districts to hold a public hearing prior to closing a school along with other procedures yet this is not how Dr. Contreras operates. Policy means nothing to her.
One parent actually testified that the principal of Hanes Inman, which is another separate school that provides the same services for medically fragile and severely disabled children, greeted parents the morning following the phone call campaign introducing himself as their new principal. Again no public announcement, public hearing, or other alternatives were even discussed.
Study after study disproved the gross exaggeration of the conditions of the Gateway Education Center, which was suppose to be the whole reason for closure.
No one ever discovered the real reason for the attempted closure so we are left only to speculate just as we do with so many other issues in GCS. Tiring isn’t it?
In the end these families with the help of the community saved their beloved school and the precious children Gateway lovingly serves stroll the hallways with smiles!
GCS Superintendent recommends two schools for possible closure
Parents were notified by phone on Friday, April 12, as GCS students were beginning spring break, that Gateway would be closing its doors at the end of the school year.
Guilford schools chief backs off plan to close Gateway center next year, says families will get a choice
Then Contreras turned to the subject of Gateway, stressing again her concerns about potential health issues for medically-fragile students and saying that the school system had been calling Gateway parents the past week about potentially closing the school next year.
North Carolina State Law On Closing a Public School
§ 115C-72. Consolidation of districts and discontinuance of schools.
(a) Local boards of education shall have the power and authority to close or consolidate schools located in the same district, and with the approval of the State Board of Education, to consolidate school districts or other school areas over which the board has full control, whenever and wherever in its judgment the closing or consolidation will better serve the educational interest of the local school administrative unit or any part of it.
In determining whether two or more public schools shall be consolidated, or in determining whether or not a school shall be closed and the pupils transferred therefrom, local boards of education of the several counties shall observe and be bound by the following rules:
(1) In any question involving the closing or consolidation of any public school, the local board of education of the school administrative unit in which such school is located shall cause a thorough study of such school to be made, having in mind primarily the welfare of the students to be affected by a proposed closing or consolidation and including in such study, among other factors, geographic conditions, anticipated increase or decrease in school enrollment, the inconvenience or hardship that might result to the pupils to be affected by such closing or consolidation, the cost of providing additional school facilities in the event of such closing or consolidation, and such other factors as the board shall consider germane. Before the entry of any order of closing or consolidation, the local board of education shall provide for a public hearing in regard to such proposed closing or consolidation, at which hearing the public shall be afforded an opportunity to express their views. Upon the basis of the study so made and after such hearing, said board may, in the exercise of its discretion, approve the closing or consolidation proposed.
(2) The provisions of this section shall not deprive any local board of education of the authority to assign or enroll any and all pupils in schools in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 115C-366(b) and 115C-367 to 115C-370.
(b) This section does not govern merger of a city school administrative unit with another school administrative unit. Such merger is governed by G.S. 115C-67. (1955, c. 1372, art. 8, s. 3; 1981, c. 423, s. 1; 1983, c. 308; c. 752; 2009-570, s. 27.)