Last week, Fir Grove and Melrose elementary schools became members of a club nobody wants to join.
Along with Green and Rose schools, the two now appear on the short list of candidates for closure in the 2013-14 academic year. Though Roseburg Public Schools officials have said more than once that any of the district’s nine schools was fair game for permanent recess, it’s likely that the five not on the roster can heave a collective sigh of relief. Somebody else is probably going to draw the smallest straw when board members finish deliberating and are ready to make the grim decision.
Parents, students and staff members at Rose and Green have had more than a year to brace for bad news, though it wasn’t until last month that the board decided school closure was unavoidable to try to shore up budget shortfalls. Those two sites were named in October 2011 by an advisory committee asked to identify which of the nine made the most sense to shutter. Fir Grove originally was the third leg of a trio of candidates, but was struck from the list when committee members decided its high number of special education students warranted keeping its doors open.
The school off Harvard Avenue was less fortunate at a Feb. 6 school board work session. Members then named it one of four schools considered least likely to succeed in staying open. Suspense and uncertainty have now spread across the district map to other families and employees.
On one hand, it’s a shame that others must share the pain. On the other, it speaks well of the board that its members understand the process needs to at least appear to be egalitarian as it seeks to save up to about $430,000 a year.
As district administrators see it, there is no one perfect candidate for closure. Each of the four under consideration has good reasons to be chosen. But each has compelling and competing reasons to remain open. The board will have to consider the pros and cons of each at the next work session on the topic, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday at the district office.
This will be no easy task. Board members may feel as though they are being asked to compare apples with tangerines with kiwi with kumquats. Three will be saved, but one will not, and there’s likely to be public lamentation from that corner.
Ultimately, though, the sacrifice is about staving off cuts in other areas that would do more harm to student education. Children taken from one school will have another one to attend. It’s a short-term adjustment that will be past, if not forgotten, before these students make it to high school. It’s likely to be tougher on the adults involved, particularly those who will lose their jobs.
That sum may need to be factored into the equation board members are presented as they calculate the problem before them.