Parents protest possible school closures in Manatee Co.

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Hundreds of parents in Manatee County are worried their students' elementary school will be permanently closed. 

The decision about whether Frances Wakeland Elementary School will continue to operate has not been finalized, but the school district does have to decide. 

A survey asked parents what they thought about closing the International Baccalaureate (IB) elementary school. Jodi Webber has children at the school, and she's not happy about the potential. 

"We are going to lose our school on this beautiful campus that is not going to be ever replaced," said Jodi Webber. "It is messing up so many things if they close our school."

The Manatee County School District said they could merge Wakeland with nearby Johnson Middle School. Both schools are IB programs, as well as under capacity. 

If merged into one, they would be a full school - kindergarten through eighth grade.  

"I am going to leave the Manatee County public school system. So then they are going to lose all the funding for that. I don't think they are going to realize the ripple effect this is going to have," she said.

Webber went online and started a petition called "Save Wakeland Elementary" and other parents joined her cause. More than 500 people have added their name to the petition.

The district said it is also looking at the potential for closing or merging Orange Ridge Bullock, Oneco and Tillman Elementary Schools.

The school board said they want parents to know they won't rush a decision.

Once the results of the survey are in on Tuesday, they will take several months to discuss their options and meet with parents.

If and when they decide to shut down a school, it could take about two years to do so.

"There is so much more time for input, discussion, feed back and debate that all of these things will come out as we keep talking," said school board member Charlie Kennedy.

The district is trying to keep up with growth on the eastern side of the district, where schools are at full capacity.
While in central Manatee, the number of students has declined.

The state won't fund new schools unless all schools are at full capacity. Parents just ask to be heard before it is too late.

"We want to partner with them while fixing it while still preserving this beautiful community that we have built here with our staff, teachers and parents," said Kim Stroud, parent of students at Wakeland and Johnson schools.