Dave Wallace: Public schools in community’s best interest
I hope all city and county residents are paying serious attention to the Moffat County School District Board of Education’s intentions of closing an elementary school. I have yet to see the school district provide any information explaining to the residents of Craig and Moffat County the potential negative impacts a public school closure may have. I am listing here a few areas of concern.
- Closure of public schools many times leads to the elevated departure of students seeking private means of education, which leads to the loss of government funding (per-pupil revenue), actually adding to financial issues already facing the district.
- The financial cost of closing schools are often underestimated, starting with a miscalculation of one-time expenditures for moving students, staff and supplies. These can also entail modifications of remaining schools to accommodate the additional students and staff who have been displaced due to the closure, along with facility modifications to meet health and safety standards and codes.
- Studies indicate that schools located outside a neighborhood reduce the extra-curricular activities of students now burdened with travel, as well as the active involvement of the parents.
- Elementary school closures typically lead to enlarged class sizes, reducing individual student instruction and, at times, leading to reductions in full-day kindergarten and early childhood programs, each having a negative impact on educational performance.
- Studies show the elementary years are very important in a child’s academic future, most importantly, the third grade. This grade level has been determined to be the turning point in a child’s ability to learn, with recognition and emphasis being placed on what is referred to as the “Matthew Effect.” Studies focus primarily on students’ reading skills at this level. I ask all community parents and teachers: Is the closing of an elementary school in the best interest of your children, the students and the academic years ahead of them?
- Schools are also key indicators of community vitality and sustainability. They influence where families choose to live, property values and tax revenues, as well as the pace and location of residential and commercial development.
- School closures can have widespread and lingering consequences for a neighborhood, often falling disproportionately in communities already facing economic issues. Neighborhoods without local schools do not readily attract young families, and closing schools can decrease nearby property values. Communities already afflicted by lost jobs and revenue will be shaken further by the closing of a local school.
The closing of one of our local elementary schools is a violation which cuts the rope of trust between members of our community and the school board. Taxpayers have been investing in these public facilities for many decades. Maintaining a prosperous public school system in itself is a major economic driver in our community and needs serious consideration.
An elementary school closure should only be considered after all available means of fiscal support have been exhausted; a school closure should always be the last resort and should be considered only after a community impact and feasibility study have been completed. I urge all community residents to get involved in this issue and ask yourself, Where would a mill levy increase be of most value? Which school board candidates actually have your child’s education in their best interest?