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WILLARD, NC (WWAY) — Changes could be coming for a Pender County School, and many families affected are not happy. Those families say moving sixth through eighth grades out of Penderlea School is a bad idea.

“This is the heartbeat of Penderlea,” parent Toni Giddeons said.

For Giddeons, Penderlea is more than just a school. It is a family.

“We wanted the two youngest ones to have that experience,” she said. “Madison was adopted at a year old, and the teachers here were instrumental in helping us get her. They signed all kinds of forms and letters. How many other teachers can speak on the character of their parents and their household?”

The Pender County School Board wants to split the school, which currently has grades kindergarten through eighth grades. After fifth grade, the students would be divided between West Pender Middle School and Burgaw Middle School.

Penderlea School librarian Angela Perry says the argument for the change is a claim that small middle schools do not prepare the students well enough.

“Yes, we’re small, but we’re willing to fight to keep it,” Giddeons said. “Whatever we need to do.”

Several parents, teachers and county commissioners have tried asking the school board for more reasoning, but they have not gotten any answers. They think this decision could lead to worse things.

“It’s just the beginning of the end,” former student Jewell Horton said. “We’ve seen other community schools slowly get phased out throughout the county. I truly do believe in my heart that if we do lose the middle school kids, it won’t be long before we lose the whole school.”

We tried reaching out to Pender County School leaders, but no one has not returned our calls.

Parents and teachers plan to rally outside the school board’s meeting at the Pender Resource Center tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. to try to convince them to change their decision.

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