With Benton Elementary’s future in limbo, supporters of the 79-year-old school pleaded with Jackson County School System leaders Monday night to keep Benton’s doors open.

Three citizens spoke Monday night to the Jackson County Board of Education, which is mulling a merger of the Nicholson-area school with another elementary school next year to remedy an excess of classroom space on the East side of the county.

“I’m asking you — I’m pretty much begging you — to keep this school open,” Beth Walker said. “Let the people in this community have their generations go to this school.”

Benton’s tiny enrollment of 323 falls well below the state’s minimum of 450 students for the system to earn administrative funding. That means administrative salaries at the school have to be paid totally from local funds with no state help.

The school last received significant improvements in 2002 when $1 million in upgrades were done to the campus. Now, the BOE must decide if it wants to invest more SPLOST money for some much-needed refurbishment, or merge Benton to maximize class space on that side of the county.

If school leaders do move forth with a merger, the vast majority of Benton students could end up at South Jackson Elementary (located at the old Kings Bridge Middle School site).

For the full story, see the Jan. 14th issue of The Jackson Herald.

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