Our View

Be part of the process to be prepared

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The possibility of consolidating Standish and Sterling elementary schools has been mentioned at least briefly at two Standish-Sterling school board meetings, and twice we have published stories that have also made note of the potential consolidation.

And the process is just beginning, so any parents or community members who are concerned about the district consolidating the schools, or those who might want more information about what it might change for them on a daily basis, have plenty of time to share their concerns or ask questions.

With declining enrollments to many districts in the area, with very few exceptions, consolidating or general downsizing is nothing new. The West Branch-Rose City school district closed one of its middle schools a few years ago. Whittemore-Prescott Area Schools closed its middle school in the village of Prescott and its alternative education building in Whittemore, the latter of which was also an elementary at one time.

School districts are often uncertain as to how much the state will allocate to them via per-pupil foundation allowance, and while non-homestead millages do provide a large source of local revenue, it is not likely that revenue source will balloon exponentially any time soon.

So while we can definitely empathize with parents’ concerns about the district consolidating elementaries, we can also understand why its leadership feels like it is a route it must explore.

Superintendent Darren Kroczaleski mentioned Sept. 12 he has begun developing a consolidation plan for the 2017-18 school year. While we are confident Mr. Kroczaleski will be thorough in his planning, we also believe nobody coming up with a plan can possibly take into account every scenario. That’s especially true when you’re dealing with a school district. Think about all the variables involved — student safety, staffing, transportation, appeasing parental concerns, delivering a quality educational product and so on.

The best way the process can work effectively is for people to communicate. And by communicate, we don’t mean wait until July 2017 to show up at a school board meeting to hoot and holler about your child having to ride a different bus or get dropped off at home later than usual.

Instead, be aware of what is being proposed. Make sure you understand it. Take into account how it will affect you and your student. Make note of your concerns and share them with district officials. If you can’t make it to a school board meeting, contact the district and schedule a meeting with an administrator. If there’s something you believe is not being taken into consideration, tell the school board or an administrator. It’s possible your concern is shared by someone else.

There’s no doubt that any consolidation will cause inconveniences for many people. However, if they are aware of it well in advance, they can make sure they, like the district, have a plan ahead of time and are prepared, hopefully leading to a smooth transition.

So as this discussion continues throughout the school year, community members have a couple of options: be part of the process, share concerns, ask questions and offer up solutions, or be angry and breed bitterness. We hope they choose the former.

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