Build the new school, but keep Evarts and Cumberland high schools open.
Pick a "magic number" at each school, working with parents and community members.
If enrollment at either school drops below that point, go ahead with the school closing.
Such a plan, said Kennedy, "could stop this fighting."
"A lot of people think (enrollment) is going to start increasing, due to the upswing in coal," Kennedy said.
The board, he said, should wait and see if things get better before shutting down their community high schools.
But Saylor said the county school district can't afford to keep running three schools and improve students' educational opportunities at the same time.
"We're having a hard time right now supporting the three high schools we've got," Saylor said. "I just don't see that as a feasible option."
Harlan County school board chairman Gary Farmer said he empathizes with those angry over the impending school closings, but that the district wasn't really given a choice by the state.
He said the school board had no real options: It was consolidation or consolidation.
"Either we do it, or they're going to do it for us," Farmer said. "Changes in funding would help this situation, but that depends on a lot of legislators that are not from our area. They're decreasing our finds all the time because it's based on enrollment."
Population drops have held steady in Harlan County since the 1980s, emptying schools as coal mines shut down and families moved away.
Kentucky State Data Center projections show the county's population continuing to decline by about 3 percent every three years.
Ron Crouch of the KSDC said that even if the population decline in Harlan County reverses itself if there are more coal mining jobs, tourism or better housing bringing people in it's not the school-age population that will be growing.
More mining won't bring the job boom of the 20th century this time around, he said, because the jobs are left more to machines.
The biggest growth is expected in 40- to 50-year olds, Crouch said, and the 15-and-under age group will likely continue to shrink.
"The reality is, in America, we're having fewer kids," Crouch said. Kentucky today has no more kids than it did 100 years ago. Eastern Kentucky has always had a very high fertility rate. That is just not happening today."
But even a plateau of the school-age population, to Kennedy, would justify keeping the schools open, said Kennedy. Too long a drive for a school that may not be much better, he said, isn't worth it.
Residents of Evarts and the Tri-Cities "still feel like you can get a quality education in a small school," Kennedy said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to keep our kids off the road."