Kids take part in field days at Whitesville this week.
By JOHN ANDERSON
Whitesville school may have three students in the ninth grade class and 23 students enrolled in grades 9-12, but there is a last-minute push to get teachers to keep the high school open for the 2022-2023 school year.
Whitesville Superintendent Tammy Emery said the low numbers are not an issue. She said Whitesville has faced low numbers and the students have received excellent education with more attention to their needs.
Several teachers resigned to take new positions. Of four of them, three took positions in the towns they live in and no longer have to make the drive, up to two hours round-trip to Whitesville.
That is the main reason Whitesville may have to send students to Andover for the 2022-2023 school year.
When asked about the low numbers of students, Emery points to the success of 2023 Whitesville Valedictorian Aislinn Hamilton (story on Hamilton, Kennedy Bledsoe and the Class of 2023 at Whitesville HERE)
Hamilton has a 100.94% average and will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute majoring in Nuclear Engineering.
During an interview with the Sun, Emery was very passionate about the students and the school, saying, “We do great things for kids at Whitesville … we do great things. Aislinn, she is going off for nuclear engineering!”
Emery said this is the final chance to keep the high school portion of the school open. The advertisement for three teachers in the high school has an application deadline of June 30.
As a result, the talk comes back to lack of teachers.
“We are doing everything we can to save K-12. And closing the building has not been in any discussions. We want to get through this gap of teacher shortage, we want to maintain all grades,” Emery said. “We want to be the best we’ve always been. Academically, we’ve scored very high, in sports we’ve always been great competitors. We don’t see that going away. We just need teachers who want to be here, who understand a rural district who want to grow here.”
Emery has been at Whitesville for 15 years, 14 in administration, from principal to superintendent.
“When I was asked to be principal, I moved to Main Street and walked to school every day,” Emery said. “We are a safe community. I think people should move to Whitesville. We have excellent wifi, we have good things to bring to people and a great educational system, we want as many people to be a part of that as you can get.”
Whitesville Principal Renee McNeely along with the school counselor are looking at the master schedule and what can be maintained at Whitesville, Emery said. They are seeing what they can offer the high school and middle school teachers who remain if they drop 9-12. They are also looking at who can cover classes if they stay a high school.
If teachers do not apply by the deadline, Whitesville will bus students to Andover and pay tuition. Students are free to go to other schools, but they would have to provide transportation and pay any tuition costs.
Whitesville Central School draws from a 50-square-mile radius, including Pennsylvania, which is a reason merger talks are far and few between.
That has not stopped parents from sending their children from larger schools to Whitesville.
“We’ve had kids come here who were not successful in other places,” Emery said. “They are here, they are in class. We get to know them, we get to know their families and they are successful in Whitesville.”
The school board held a public meeting recently to go over the staffing issues. The board was questioned why this came up so fast.
“We had teacher resignations come in during May,” Emery told the Sun. “Suddenly, we had teachers leaving and there is no teacher pool for me to pull from. I had people driving in from Allegany and Fillmore. They get a job in those districts, they are gaining two hours to their day.”
Emery said during the recent public meeting a community member said there’s been talk of closing Whitesville every year since 1984 because of low numbers.
“Enrollment is a factor. But we have a lot of pride here in Whitesville,” Emery said. “I’ve heard the same thing, ‘Whitesville will not be here.’ Whitesville is a special place, it’s the reason I had a conversation with the board on making these decisions.”
“When it comes to Math and English, we have had zero candidates for those positions. We had to figure out where we want to go. Sending kids to Andover was not something on our radar (when the school year started).”
As for enrollment, Emery said, “We knew when they were in elementary school we would hit this. We were prepared for that piece. We were not prepared for teachers to resign and the big gaps in teachers.”
Emery said Whitesville has 23 students in the high school and 139 overall while Andover has a senior class of 19 and 25 freshman. The high school enrollment at Andover is 80. In the lower grades, Andover is at 103.
Whitesville’s six incoming seniors include one student currently from Andover.
Whitesville has four students in ninth grade, one from Andover, six in 10th grade, but one is from out of district and seven in 11th grade with one out of district.
The second grade class in Whitesville has 17 students and the fourth grade has 15. The other elementary and middle school grades have 10 students or less in each class.