In light of the recent discussion to close certain elementary schools in our district, I want to introduce you to my son, Owen.
Owen is six and a half years old and currently in Mrs. Luna's first grade class at Sunset Hill Elementary school. This is his first year at Sunset, and he's very proud to be an Eagle.
My wife and I have lived in the Lawrence Heights neighborhood since we've been married (the past nine years). We've spoken to Owen about attending Sunset since before he could understand our words. We've walked to the playground countless times. All of the children in our neighborhood, including two young women who now attend West Junior High, are alumni of Sunset. Owen idolizes them both.
Because his birthday is in early August, we waited until his first grade year to transition Owen to public school. It was a challenge at first. The Montessori curriculum from his former classroom didn't mesh well with the public school formula, but the wonderful staff at Sunset made him feel at home and part of something very special.
Sunset is more than bricks and mortar. I can close my eyes and see Owen's artwork on the walls. He learned to read in those classrooms. He's made friends on the playground, and been exposed to some hard lessons about friendship and doing the right thing, too. He loves his teachers, especially PE, art, and music. Mrs. Wilkins, his art teacher, has inspired him to explain at dinner last month, "Maybe I'll be an artist when I grow up."
I know the Board has a difficult decision to make. From the public forum I attended last night, it sounds like a balanced budget without school closure is possible. During the forum, the Board forwarded notion that larger class sizes and reduction of services would be the consequences of not closing a school or two. With the potential savings of only $500K/school, those "consequences" will be a reality to meet the budget shortfall (of $4.5+million) regardless of school closure. It's a little like cutting off a hand to stop a rash that has already spread to the rest of the body. The hand will not grow back; our school will not reopen. But, with time, the rash will come in check. The financial situation will improve.
I also can't help questioning the logic behind closing (in Sunset) one of the most efficient, highest performing, not to mention over-capacity schools in the district. I certainly hope the reason doesn't lie in the suggestion that my child might be "worth" more to the district if he is bused to his attendance center. Such a suggestion is unethical and immoral. My child, and his classmates, are not product or pawns.
We're all going to feel the budget crunch, but this is a strong community and we will survive. I urge you to make the right choice. As Owen can tell you, making the right choice is hard.
Thank you for your time,
(Thanks for your indulgence today, writerly people. This is the draft of a letter I'm sending to our school board.)