Knox County Schools officials are considering whether to close Career Magnet Academy over cost and attendance issues.
Dozens of concerned students, parents and faculty packed the house at the Knox County Schools Board of Education work session meeting on Wednesday-- asking for the board to save their school.
68 people signed up to speak during the public forum at the meeting.
For the board -- it was a night of listening as public comment lasted nearly three hours before the session concluded.
Cheers erupted from attendees at one point when three of the board members voiced their support for keeping the Career Magnet Academy open.
"This is not something I have any intention on taking from students. I want to fix what we are taking from students," board member Jennifer Owen said.
However, the board didn't make a final call on the school's future Wednesday night, but are weighing three options to decide at a later date: Close the school, wind down the program over time, or redesign the program.
The dual-enrollment program began as a 'grand experiment' with Pellissippi State Community College to provide students with an innovative opportunity to earn their high school diploma alongside significant hours toward their post-secondary education or industrial certifications and training.
Students said they are frustrated over the closing consideration, as they chose to attend CMA over home schools specifically for those dual enrollment and academic opportunities -- and don't want to go back.
A memo dated Dec. 19 raises concerns over the future of Career Magnet Academy. The district's chief accountability officer highlighted low enrollment, costs, and failure of students to meet benchmarks as issues.
"The bottom line still is the dollars. We have got to be able to afford the dollars to do these things," board chair Terry Hill said at Wednesday's meeting.
Some school board members asked what kind of money the district would save by cutting IB programs or high-salaried staff instead of this school.
Magnet schools in Knox County were in danger of losing a significant portion of funding under a proposed 2019 budget from Superintendent Bob Thomas, which proposed cuts to all magnet schools by at least $1 million.
The community rallied and in June 2018 the board approved a recommendation for additional funding for magnet schools.
Board Chair Terry Hill said if the board had voted directly after hearing the hours of public comment, there would have been enough support to keep the school going. No official decision has been made.
The school board is expected to consider all options for CMA's future at its meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.