Closing schools best of bad options

Earlier this year, a large public outcry stopped the Seattle School District from closing down several elementary schools. Following this, Superintendent Raj Manhas appointed a committee to view all of the district's options to save money. Well, now the results are in.

The independent committee just announced that one of the measures it recommends is closing certain schools. It is regrettable the district has arrived at this decision-where just to get out of debt, some schools must be shut down.

As much as I don't want to see the district close schools, is there much choice left? Although every school is part of a community, if they are under-attended is there a need to keep them running? Each district gets a select amount of money based on how many students are enrolled. Each individual school needs a certain amount of students to allow it to run and have sufficient staff.

In Seattle enrollment has dropped dramatically over the past couple decades. This has left some schools under-attended, and therefore grossly under-funded.

Every school has essential staff, but some schools are so small they can't afford the extra secondary staff-which includes such positions as school counselors, nurses and reading specialists. These schools are the ones that would be shut down.

A few months ago school board member Darlene Flynn came to the Center School. When asked about her support of closing schools, she rephrased the question a little bit differently: "Would I rather cut off my left arm or my right arm?" By this she meant: do we want to take away from all schools, or shut down some of the smaller, inadequately funded ones?

While neither choice is great, one has to be adopted.

I am in favor of cutting the schools that are underused. Shutting down these schools could mean the Center School could restart a cross-country team previously cut due to a lack of funding. It could mean a new music program or a reading specialist for Catharine Blaine School.

These extra schools are unneeded, and it is a disservice to the students who attend them-as well as the rest of the students in the district-to keep them open.

Closing schools is not a brand new concept. It has been done before; just look around. The vacant Briarcliff Elementary School was recently sold to a developer. The old school on the adjacent hill has played host to the African American Academy and Coe Elementary, and is now vacant. There simply wasn't a need to have all these schools open, especially if they weren't operating anywhere near their optimal capacity.

Closing schools may not be a popular option, but it is the best choice. Right now the district's main goal is to get out of debt, and this may be one of the best ways to save money. I would rather see some schools closed than have staff positions moved back to half time, teaching jobs cut or extra programs wiped out completely.

Magnolia resident Joe Meyer is a sophomore at the Center School.[[In-content Ad]]