‘I felt like I got smacked in the face,’ parent says after Petersburg school cuts grades 5-12

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- Parents have glowing reviews of the staff and teachers at Rock Academy in Petersburg. But those same parents are miffed about plans to cut grades five through twelve from the school.

A letter went home Friday to parents stating Bill Smalt, the Rock Church's new pastor, had also become principal of the school. The letter also said that the school would eliminate the grades beginning with the next school year.

Some parents like Sharonda Jones said they were shocked by how they were informed about the changes at the small private school, which is well-known for its A Beka curriculum, Christian teachings and low student-teacher ratio.

"I was disappointed, I felt like I got smacked in the face," Jones said.

Charlita Covington, whose daughter attends Rock Academy, also had qualms with the tone of the letter.

"Here, this is what it is, it is what it is basically, the tone of the letter," Covington said.


Teachers said they also learned about the unexpected change in a letter. The news means some of them will lose their jobs.

And parents like Shanita Bailey said that trying to address the matter with the new pastor got them nowhere.

"The feedback I got was it did not matter what the parents said or what we did," Bailey said.

Bailey, whose daughter is in the fourth grade, has already started looking for a new private school and realizes she may have to move.


Some of the parents said that they would be willing to pay more if the school would keep the grades.

"We love this school.  We wouldn't pay the money that we do if it was not worth it -- and we feel it is worth it for what we're getting from it," Jones said.

However, Jones also said that her family may withdraw their daughter, who would be starting the fourth grade next fall, over worries that the school might close mid-year.

CBS 6 reached out to the pastor, but was told he was unavailable. The station also asked for written comment from the school. However, as of 6 p.m. Monday, CBS 6 News had not received a response.

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