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Clifton Businesses Come to Grips with School Closure Decision

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By Jonathan Wilson

In the historic town of Clifton, Virginia, school board members voted overwhelmingly to close down the town's elementary school last night. Now, some business owners there are trying to understand how that decision will affect their bottom line.

Erin Tengesdal owns the Clifton Cafe, a mile down the road from the elementary school.

Her cafe is where many around here come to chat and even do business over a cup of coffee; she says most of her customers are parents of children at the school.

"Any day that there's a holiday and that school on the hill is closed, our business goes down by at least 30 percent, if not more," she says.

The Fairfax County School Board decided to close the school.

Students were doing well academically, but board members say fewer students are projected to enroll there and the school building needs major renovations.

Tengesdal says she's trying to think of creative ways to attract new customers, but she's concerned Clifton Cafe won't survive the school's closure.

"Yeah, I'm very worried, I employ six or seven people locally," she says.

Across the street in the town square, Patti Hopkins, the school's Parent-Teacher Association president, says the decision has ruined what should have been a perfect summer day.

"It's almost like someone died in the family, and you have no idea when the funeral is," Hopkins says. "It's somber."

Hopkins says residents are exploring their legal options for reversing the school board's decision.

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