An extremely difficult decision was handed down by the Roseburg School Board last week: Close one of the district’s nine elementary schools.
When the votes were counted, no one smiled, no one clapped. It wasn’t a win for anyone.
It was an acceptance by four members of the board, while three others held out, that this is one step the district must take.
Enrollment has been dropping in the district for several years and that means less money to operate while costs continue to rise. It also means the district hasn’t had the funds to buy new curriculum or technology or perform needed maintenance on its buildings.
Superintendent Larry Parsons says he’s most concerned about the district’s aging curriculum. When books are seven and eight years old, he said students aren’t getting the world-class education they deserve.
So, one way to save money and free up funds for other necessities, is to close an elementary school. District officials estimate it could save $426,800 annually.
That’s not enough for a district anticipating a $2 million increase in its obligation to the Public Employees Retirement System. But it’s a start.
The school board will spend this month and next deciding which elementary school it will close.
Previously a school consolidation committee recommended either Green or Rose elementary but the board says all nine are under consideration at this time.
Parsons said the board respects the exemplary work done by the consolidation committee but wants to make sure every option is exhausted before it makes a decision. A public forum will be scheduled to gain input from district residents.
A school closure will affect students, parents, teachers, other staff members and neighborhoods. It will disrupt the loyalty that the district has encouraged at that particular school. It will be emotional. It will be hard.
The focus must remain on the students — that’s why the schools exist — and yet, the students may be the most resilient of the bunch.
Every Roseburg student changes schools at least three times before graduation. Each year, students get new teachers, new classrooms, new hallways, new classmates. They adjust.
It may be toughest on the teachers and staff who’ve grown to be a family, but will have to separate and move to new schools. Some will lose jobs.
The neighborhood will notice an absence of bus, car and foot traffic and the cacophony of children’s voices at recess.
The school’s closure will need to be acknowledged with an event. Every child who was educated within its walls should be celebrated, every teacher saluted, every aide, volunteer and principal respected. Some may need to grieve.
Then the district must move forward and capitalize on its strengths.
District residents and employees must decide what the future of the Roseburg School District will look like.