Although the issue was dormant for nearly three months, it’s clear that the passion of advocates for the Baldwin school district’s two rural elementary schools haven’t cooled.
Parents and students from the outlying elementary schools in the school district continue to make their case for Marion Springs and Vinland elementary schools. The two combine to teach 138 out of the district’s 1,437 students.
“I have seven kids that all go to or went to this school district,” said Lisa Smith, a Vinland parent. “I still want to keep Vinland Elementary open. Ten years from now when I don’t have kids in Vinland, I am still going to want that school open.”
Other parents have chosen Marion Springs for their children’s early education. That’s why they hope it remains open.
“As a parent, education is an important subject,” said Kim Beilfuss, Marion Springs parent and Community Service Organization president. “Our children spend eight hours a day, five days a week with the same group of kids and teachers. This school is their second family.”
When budget cuts were discussed last spring, the school board considered closing the rural elementary schools. Dozens of parents and patrons of the rural communities sent letters, e-mails and petitions to the school board advocating for their schools.
Once the board was told additional cuts weren’t coming this summer, the topic was dropped. But Superintendent Paul Dorathy said the board should try to make a decision on the issue this year, preferably by December, because more cuts could be on the way.
On Monday, the board will set a date for a mandatory public hearing on closing the schools. No public comment will be allowed at Monday’s meeting, but a large contingent is expected at the board’s next regular board meeting on Oct. 11.
“We’re carefully watching how the board chooses to spend our tax dollars,” Beilfuss said. “We have gathered signatures on petitions, written many e-mails to our BOE, contacted our Legislature, researched numbers and attended every meeting.”
In the end, class sizes are one of the major issues with the parents. Most elementary classes in the district have from 15 to 20 students. If the schools were consolidated, those classes would increase to 20 to 25 students.
“Keeping the rural schools open guarantees smaller class sizes K-5,” Smith said. “Closing those schools is going to kill two rural communities. That’s what our communities are built around, are these two schools. If they close our school down, we won’t have the Vinland community. We will be part of the Baldwin community.
“We as parents try not to upset our children, but they know that our schools are going to close,” she said. “It’s sad because they are crying. If our schools close, our community parents and children will be shedding tears.”