BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — For Kasey Bland and her family, Lanier Elementary School is so much more than a building.
"My dad actually graduated there when it was a high school. I was there from kindergarten through eighth, and now my daughter is in first grade there," she told 10News. "They really care about the students."
Generations of Maryville families have attended the school.
"I's not just about education. I mean, we're a community," said Misty Quall, an alumna and current parent at Lanier Elementary. "It would devastate a lot of families here if they closed Lanier."
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said both the county and the district have tough financial decisions to make because of a loss of revenue during the pandemic.
"If we’ve learned anything at all, we’ve seen that the brick and mortar costs need a hard look," Mitchell wrote on Facebook. "The costs we accrue for the upkeep of a building – can be used for our kids and teachers."
He specifically noted that the county could save nearly $1 million by opting not to fix the septic system at Lanier Elementary, which he says is only at 60 percent capacity. The students would be reassigned to nearby schools.
"Our School Board has an opportunity to show whether they care about our Blount County kids or not," Mitchell wrote. "They say it's a hard decision to decide to close a school. Well, I say there's a lot of hard decisions being made by businesses and citizens across this county every day because of the unknown."
Any decision to close or rezone schools would have to be made by the Blount County School Board. On Friday, they wrote that they are focused on supporting students and families.
"Our leadership committee is reviewing options related to continuing to serve students and families using the Lanier school building in the fall of 2020 through implementation of increased safety measures," the school district said. "These options when considered and approved by Blount County Board of Education will be released to the community."
But parents and students fear that'll affect the rest of the district too.
"When you talk about reassigning 300 to 400 children to a different school, it's not just that easy," Angie Valpatic said. "We're going to influence other schools to become overcrowded with other children."
Plus, they say Lanier Elementary is a special place — one that can't be recreated easily.
"Lanier isn't just a school, it's a family," Angie Valpatic said. "Closing Lanier is not the solution."