To the editor:
Six years ago, the USD 497 school board closed Riverside, Centennial and East Heights elementary schools, dealing three thriving Lawrence neighborhoods a serious blow. Then, as now, budget shortfalls needed to be filled. But haven’t we learned anything since those dark days of 2003? Then, as now, school board members maintained that neighborhood schools are somehow “inefficient,” slavishly hewing to a one-size-fits-all business model that in no way serves students, parents or neighborhoods. Study after study has shown that neighborhood schools are, in fact, more efficient ways to achieve the district’s own goals of closing the achievement gap between low-income students and their better-off counterparts.
Closing neighborhood schools is a lazy, dishonest, stopgap solution to the long-term problems facing our city and our schools. People move to Lawrence precisely because of its neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm. Closing a school, as we have seen, permanently decimates the very neighborhoods on which our city’s character is built. This does not need to happen again. I invite readers to witness the profound and heartening renaissance in young families in neighborhoods like those bordering New York School. Are the members of the school board really considering amputation (that’s really what we’re talking about here) to cure a temporary flu bug originating from a lagging economy and stubborn Legislature?
Bad budgets come and go. But closing a school is forever. Has our school board gotten any wiser over the past six years, or are we in for déjà vu all over again?