I am writing as a parent and a teacher to express my concerns about the school closure being considered.
I believe that it is a bad idea for many reasons. First, I'd like you to ask how the district came to be in the position of deficit spending. Rodney Jahn has kept our district in excellent fiscal shape for many years, despite a struggling economy and many cuts to school funding.
Prior to his accident he was warning the board and administration that they needed to stop spending. They did not heed his warnings and now they must find a way to balance their budget.
Well, I say, balance it at the top where the dilemma was created. What other options besides closing a school are being considered? Could District office personnel days or hours be reduced to part-time or cut during summer months? Could secretaries be shared? Could positions be cut?
Downsizing administration makes sense in a struggling economy and shrinking school population. Could district-owned vehicles be sold?
I believe we need to look at every possibility before taking such a drastic measure as closing a school. If my family were experiencing a shortage of income, we wouldn't first consider selling the house that we own free and clear (drastic), we would look to eliminate unnecessary expenses and reduce necessary expenses. The School Board should take the same logical approach to this situation.
Second, I don't think the amount saved by a school closure will be as great as anticipated. What will it cost to pay and move teachers and materials? Many teachers are not willing to be hired to perform this service over the summer.
Also, a considerable amount of money has been invested on technology at the schools. Smart Boards, computers, and projectors will have to be moved and reinstalled. Some are sure to be damaged during a move. Has the district thought about the cost of repairing or replacing damaged technology? Bulbs alone cost $300-$500 for some projectors.
Electricity costs would not decrease dramatically, as the schools not closed would have increased usage with more occupied classrooms.
If Pine Grove is closed, the original agreement was that the land would revert to the original owners. The district would then lose this real estate and there would not be a school to reopen should that need arise.
Finally, I think that this proposal is being pursued too quickly. The closure of a school will have far-reaching effects for all of the in-town elementary schools, students and families. It will be necessary to rezone the remaining schools.
Full classrooms will prevent many families from requesting IZs. If we continue to honor IZ requests, will we find ourselves needing to purchase portables in the future?
Redwood School and Mary Peacock already have serious issues with traffic safety. How will the impact of increased traffic be handled?
Some classrooms currently not being used at schools have known mold issues. Have the district considered the cost of resolving these issues before placing students and teachers in them? Moreover, if students were placed in rooms with known mold issues, the district could suffer serious legal consequences.
A last thought here, has the board projected far enough into the future to consider closing a site? There are proposed family housing projects which could increase enrollment. The cost of reopening a school is prohibitive, to say the least.
In conclusion, I believe the proposal to close a school is being considered on too short a timeline. Perhaps it is a reasonable way to save money for our district, but that decision should not be rushed into. It should only be made with meticulous research and community involvement.
There are just too many variables to be considered and plans to be carefully made. Should the board make this decision too hastily, it could actually create situations that cost the district money.
Please carefully consider the ramifications of any school closure. The community is counting on it.
Teresa Bergman teaches at Pine Grove Elementary School.