Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rural school closures all too common in this economic climate

School districts everywhere are being pressed to find efficiencies and ways to economize, and rural schools are rarely seen as efficient or economical. (Some would argue, with good basis, that these small schools are quite efficient in the long run, in terms of educational results achieved, but that's another story).

Here is the story of a closure in Yolo County, California. The elementary school in tiny Knights Landing closed this week. Knights Landing is not even a Census Designated Place, though the story reports a population of 1,100. Here's an excerpt from Hudson Sangree's report:
The school's closure will take away one of the town's few bright spots and leave a vacant space at its center, supporters say.

"It's heartbreaking," said Roberto Barajas, school principal, who grew up in Knights Landing as a child of farmworkers. He attended Grafton and returned years later as an educator.

In February, officials with the Woodland Joint Unified School District decided to shut down Grafton to help close a $7 million budget gap.

About two-thirds of the students will be bused 16 miles to a school just outside of Woodland, the county seat, and the other third will attend a school just five miles away, but over the county line in Sutter County.

Just as sad as the prospect of young children being bused long distances are the consequences of school closures for the communities they serve. It's a cycle in which the local economy supports the school, which in turn supports the local economy. In places like Knights Landing, the cycle becomes a proverbial vicious one.

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