Students Will Leave Closing High School, but Trophies to Stay in Town
Each day, students gather in the Lovington High School science lab to catalog and repair trophies won by their classmates and some of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
Kaya James, 15, helps catalog some of the more than 800 pieces of Lovington High memorabilia, including trophies, yearbooks and plaques, that will be displayed in businesses after the school closes.
The school, built in 1907, is in its last weeks. The trophies won’t follow Lovington students 10 miles to Arthur and the newly renamed Arthur-Lovington High School this fall. They will be displayed in the bank, phone company, library, grain elevator and churches here.
A year ago, voters approved — by a 32-vote margin — the annexation of the Lovington School District by the Arthur School District, which has about 115 students in its junior and senior high school. LHS has 78 students, including 16 seniors.
The last day of classes is May 25. “It’s going to be tough after spending all my life here,” says Lovington sophomore Logan West, 16. “There’s a time in everyone’s life where they have to make a change. I’m fine with it.”
Others in this village of 1,300 are taking it harder. The school and its sports teams were the community’s glue and entertainment. Some worry that its closure will give area residents one fewer reason to come to town, hurting businesses.
“I’d hate to see this community die down,” says Gary Smith, a former Lovington mayor, its current fire chief and manager of the grain elevator. “I hope it doesn’t happen.” A 1973 LHS graduate whose father was in the class of 1939, he voted against annexation.
“A lot of people have a stake in this school,” says LHS Principal Brandon Stone.
Wave of closures
Shrinking budgets and enrollment are forcing school closures and consolidations across the nation. From 2008 to 2009, 1,822 public elementary and secondary schools closed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A year earlier, 1,515 closed.
Two Pittsburgh high schools are undergoing the same transition as LHS. Oliver’s 300 students will move this fall to archrival Perry, which has 650. Unity activities began in January and will continue through the summer.
Perry Principal Nina Sacco says it’s important that Oliver students feel they have a voice in their future school. “This is their home now,” she says.
Money was a factor here, says Kyle VonSchnase, Lovington School District superintendent. The state, which contributes about a third of the district’s $3 million budget, is behind on payments and the district has dipped into reserve funds. Facing the annexation has been difficult for some, he says, but “everyone has just pulled together as a community.”
Mayor Kelly Bennett, whose daughter is a senior, says it was time. “There’s a lot of sentimental value to these old schools, but when they no longer serve their purpose, let them go,” she says.