Difficult decisions: School board considers closing school, new boundaries

May 2009 Posted in School

Editor’s Note: Due to a reporting error a quote was misattributed to Jonathan Edmonds. The correct speaker was Lacey Allen. We regret the error. This web version has been corrected June 11, 2009.

By Kristine Thomas

The news the Silver Falls School Board is considering closing Monitor Elementary School and transferring those students to Scotts Mills and Butte Creek Elementary schools has caused a ripple effect in the community.

Several Butte Creek parents expressed their concerns about what will happen to their school and their students if Monitor is closed and boundaries are redrawn at the May 11 school board meeting.

“The sole purpose when we bought our homes was based on schools and we wanted our children at Butte Creek,” said Butte Creek parent Lacey Allen. “Personally, I don’t want to be part of the Scotts Mills community.”

Superintendent Craig Roessler said no decisions have been made on where attendance zones and boundaries changes would be redrawn.

Right now, he said, there is a draft proposal that is in its first stage.

The school board also hasn’t voted on whether or not to close Monitor.

Reneé Metteer said she has a child at Monitor who has requested to be transferred to another school, regardless of whether Monitor stays open or not.

“She is at a point where she needs to be challenged,” she said. “Correct me if I am wrong, but Monitor only has three teachers and I don’t know if that is a good thing. I don’t want to see the school closed but it may be time.”

Roessler said there are two reasons he has recommended the school board close Monitor Elementary School by June 30. The first has to do with finances, the second with education.

“This is a difficult recommendation for me to make as it is for the kids and parents at Monitor to hear,” Roessler said. “We work hard to build communities and not take communities apart.”

Due to budget cuts, Monitor will lose one classroom teacher, meaning three teachers would be asked to teach three grades each from kindergarten to eighth-grade.

The primary reason Roessler is recommending Monitor Elementary be closed is he thinks teachers having three grade levels is not in the best interest of the students. About 40 percent of Monitor students do not speak English at home as their primary language.

The second reason has to do with economics. Both Monitor and Scotts Mills are about half full – Scotts Mills has 115 students with a maximum of 200 students and Monitor has 70 students with a capacity for 160 students. Butte Creek Elementary School has 285 students with a maximum of 300 students.

“Given where we are financially for both the state and the nation it is hard to recommend having two schools less than half full,” he said, adding by closing a school it would bring more resources and a more quality of an overall education to a single school rather than spreading resources out. “Having one teacher teaching a single grade would be better for all kids,” he said.

He said considering how to redraw boundaries and attendance zones will be done with the idea of trying to disrupt as few families as possible.

Terri Gasper said her concern is for the students and making sure whatever is done is done with the students’  best interest in mind. She doesn’t understand why some parents have said they wouldn’t want their students to go to Scotts Mills.

“We have a wonderful community and we have a great school,” she said. “If we have some difficult decisions to make, we have to do what’s best for the kids and make it good for them wherever they go.”

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