Edgewood Residents Oppose Proposal to Close Their School

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Published on February 11 2014 2:55 am
Last Updated on February 11 2014 1:21 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The 30-40 people who braved the cold Monday night to attend a special Unit 40 Board meeting on the proposed closing of Edgewood Grade School made their feelings clear; they don't like the idea.

Some of them like the fact that their children and grandchildren attend a building where class sizes are small and close to home.  Others view the school as a draw to the community and wonder about the future of the village if the school is closed.

Some of those present heard the numbers indicating that the District will save money if Edgewood is closed and the students moved to Central or South Side next year.  They, though, like things as they are and feel that their community is being asked to give more than their fair share in the name of better economics.

We spoke with more than half a dozen people gathered at the meeting, but none would consent to a recorded interview.  They weren't shy, though, about sharing their feelings one-on-one.

Some of those on hand shared about their bad experiences when they headed into Effingham after 8th grade when Edgewood was a middle school.  One mom, though, said she has told her daughter that it will be a good experience; that she knows other children who live in Effingham and will get to see them at school.

The comments about the impact on the village itself were poignant.  One person said, "If they close our school, what do we have left?  What other draw is there?"

As to the numbers, Unit 40 Superintendant Mark Doan said the District would save an estimated $443,000 a year by closing Edgewood School.  Doan said the teachers at Edgewood would have jobs elsewhere in the District next year due to retirements.  Up to three non-certified staff members may not be retained, though.  One administrator's position would also be eliminated, as well as $25,000 in building costs.

Enrollment is another consideration.  There are 59 students now enrolled at Edgewood.  When those students are included in next year's enrollment at the Early Learning Center, South Side and Central, the District would add one section of third grade and one section of fourth grade.  The plan, though, now is to reduce one section of first grade.  As it stands, class size in each grade K-5 would be between 23 and 24 students.  The fourth and fifth grade class sizes would actually be smaller than this year, even with the addition of the Edgewood School students.

Doan said bus routes are being reviewed, and said the goal is to reduce the amount of time students are on the bus, balanced against operating costs.  He said, yes, all ages of students will continue to be on the same buses and said that some kids will have shorter times on buses, while some will have longer times.

The superintendent said Edgewood students would be placed into classes as they would be when beginning in fifth grade at Central, and that student placements would continue to be based on a variety of informational sources such as gender, teacher input and the like.  He said the District will also take into account this coming year as a transition year.  

Doan also asked for efforts by the administration, staff members, PTO and the Edgewood community to make the transition as smooth as possible.  The process will include trips to schools in town this spring and opportunities for celebrating Edgewood School's history through alumni gatherings or similar efforts.

We talked with Mark Doan after the meeting...

Two board members whose children attended Edgewood School spoke to the proposal to close the building.  Jeff Michael said his four older children all attended Edgewood.  Michael, who is married to a teacher, said the teacher is the difference; the kids will be fine; the challenge will be for you as a community.  Carol Ruffner moved to the community when she married 40 years ago.  All of her children attended Edgewood.  She said a lot of this (the transition being successful) is on the shoulders of the parents.  She said, "we're trying to make it (the District) financially sound."

Doan also discussed the District goal of eventually housing all students in one of three buildings. He said, "We don't have the revenue to operate six buildings."

No vote was taken by the Board Monday night; that could come at the regular monthly meeting on February 24.