It’s hard to imagine what the world was like when students first attended elementary school in Tiller.
The year 1896 was notable in many ways. Queen Victoria became the longest reigning monarch in British history. John Philip Sousa wrote “Stars & Stripes Forever.” Grover Cleveland prepared to wrap up his last full year in office, the second of two nonconsecutive terms as U.S. president. American flags got an extra star when Utah became the 45th state admitted to the union.
Moving to the present: Utah is still with us. Piccolos to this day trill the patriotic composition that lives up to its name. Tiller Elementary, however, joined Sousa himself, Cleveland and the grumpy-looking queen last week by passing into history.
It’s always sad, and sometimes traumatic, when schools close their doors for the last time. That’s particularly true when generations of students have passed through those portals. Though it wouldn’t be accurate to say that Douglas County schools have been falling like bowling pins, declining enrollment and budget woes shuttered Rose Elementary School in 2013 and Toketee Falls Elementary School in 2010.
Tiller’s closure has been described by some in the district as an inevitable result of the county’s eroding student and financial base. Making it harder for all involved was the turmoil attached to a $200,000 school budget shortfall that reared up unexpectedly in the middle of the academic year. That fiscal crisis probably tossed the last dirt clod on Tiller Elementary’s coffin.
Emotional partings were exchanged on June 12, Tiller’s last day in operation. Now that the decision has been made, it’s time to carry on the transition.
There is a plan for the district’s next chapter. The 70 Tiller kids will attend Days Creek Charter School in the fall, a 16-mile trip. Three empty classrooms, all in the same wing, await the elementary school students. Younger children will get their own computer lab. Staff members, except for those retiring, also will find places at Days Creek. So will Tiller playground, library and kitchen equipment.
Several of those who spoke to News-Review reporter Jessica Prokop at the school last week already were taking a philosophical approach to the turn of events. Retiring teacher John Grow acknowledged there was sadness, but said “when one door closes, another opens.” Parent Laura Mumford offered, “I’m sure it will be fine.” Superintendent Mindy Porter pointed out that the closure’s cost savings will add stability to the district.
Even the students expressed optimism. A third-grade girl said she’s been to the Days Creek school many times, and the teens there are “very nice.” A first-grade boy who wasn’t pleased at the prospect of leaving Tiller nevertheless said he’s excited about going to another school and meeting new friends.
Both youngsters displayed traits that bode well for their adult lives. People who change with the times and look to the best are likely to move forward with confidence.
Tiller children who become Days Creek students this fall are quite capable of entering the campus with the flourish of a Sousa march.