Sartain, who taught second grade, was set to retire after this school year. Rather than transferring her to another school, Superintendent Jason Adkins asked her to see that the more than 400 students from the two schools were adjusting to their new settings.
Sartain said that, though she was far from happy about the closings, she was interested in the job. She said she needed to know her former students will be okay.
“I thought, ‘I’ll be able to take my babies and get them settled in, and I’m going to be able to walk away,’” she said.
The Walker County Board of Education on March 21 voted to close Townley Junior High as well as Farmstead Elementary School during a called meeting, citing intense economic strain brought on by state-wide funding cuts, the end of federal stimulus dollars and a district deficit of more than $4 million.
Many Townley residents protested as the board discussed the closures over several weeks, and Townley school officials held two community rallies that drew in hundreds of attendants. Despite their demonstrations, the only board member to vote against the closures was Brenda Drummond, who represents the Farmstead community.
When schools started this month, around 250 students from Farmstead and around 220 from Townley started feeding into schools in Oakman, Carbon Hill, Lupton and the Curry community.
Despite the anger over the school’s closure, Sartain said the children have adjusted far better than she expected. “They have been troopers,” she said. “They have gone into this with the best attitudes.”
Sartain credits much of the success for the transition to the faculty of the children’s new schools. For example, she said, Lupton, Oakman and Curry elementary schools each held an orientation specifically for their Townley and Farmstead students.
“We were very optimistic and welcomed them (the new students) with open arms,” said Lupton School principal Corey Shubert.
Sartain said the transition process will likely take all year, but she is seeing signs of the Townley students meshing with their classmates from other schools.
She said that, in many cases, the transition has been harder for the parents of the students.
“It’s harder for us adults to change,” she said.