Friday, February 06, 2009

School's out forever

Yesterday one of my brothers sent me a link about the closing of the elementary school we attended. It sounds like the school board made a fairly quick decision to shutter the 90-year-old building at the end of this academic year and send the students to another building in the district. The public was made aware of the proposal on January 12. The school board vote came on January 26.

It also sounds like many people from the village aren't too happy about this, including someone who circulated a forged letter to district parents with claims that the school would be closed even earlier. A commentary piece about the incident suggests that anger about the closure was born fifty-odd years ago when the district began to take shape and my hometown's school was brought under the umbrella.

My mom remarked that resentments and suspicions have lingered among the locals for a long time because of the feeling that those in the suburbs look down upon the rural farming community where I'm from. (I wrote about the place and the school while passing through it last March.) Growing up I heard such disparaging sentiments, although I don't remember it ever bothering me that much. We did live in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but I can understand the sensitivity of those who felt like they were perceived as hicks by those in the booming suburbs.

Obviously this school closure has no direct impact on me. I no longer live there, and neither does my family. I'm certain I know some people who still are in the village, but I can't say if any of them are affected. So my reactions to it are based purely in nostalgia and a sense of loyalty to where I'm from.

When I wrote about seeing my hometown a year ago, I mentioned that I feared it was being left behind. It seemed that many buildings had been torn down and that the community's appearance gave the impression of a place having a rough go of it. News of the only school in town closing confirms that sense.

I understand that times are tough for school districts and that it may be more reasonable financially to close this building than do what's necessary to keep it open. I also understand why people distrust those making the decision. I am saddened to think that the school, the center of the community for almost a century, will be no longer. There's probably a very real fear that the village may be swallowed up by the township or a nearby suburb. Would that be better for the community? I don't know.

My grandmother and other relatives went to this school for every grade level. My father attended there up through his freshman year of high school (I think) until ninth through twelfth grade were no longer held in the building but moved to the district's one high school. My three brothers and I went there through sixth grade.

The kids who get moved and can no longer walk to school will be fine learning elsewhere. They will adjust even if the parents and older folks do not. Still, as someone with no vested interest in the matter, it's strange to see a part of my past, a place whose halls and rooms I can see like I was there yesterday, slipping away so early in life. My hometown is losing a school, but in my mind what's being lost is a building with personality (even if it's left standing) and the history of a village and family generations who were formed in these halls and classrooms.

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At 10:02 AM, Anonymous LittleWit said...

That's so sad. I take it there isn't much the village can do to fight the vote? If they have to bus the kids a good distance to the closest school it could be good argument for keeping it open.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

I only know what's been in the paper, but my guess is that there won't be any changed opinions since it appears to have been forced through because that's what the district wants.

The plan is to bus kids to a school six miles away, but of course, that's building to building. Some kids surely will be more like ten miles from their new school.


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