Oh, who are
the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day
With a substantial shift in population in the greater Lititz area over the past decade to older residents and younger family units without children, our school system may face an important question in the coming years- Do we close an elementary school? Research shows that children are better off when they attend a school in their own neighborhood, but at the same time there is a need for fiscal responsibility. Obviously, a good responsible school board should not overspend and make unrealistic budget. At the same time, deciding about the future of a school or a shift in school lines should not be made solely for fiscal sake. There is a lot to be said for keeping a neighborhood school open. As a School Board Director, I will work with the families and school administration to find ways to keep all schools open, to not shift young learners away from their neighborhood school.
Let us talk first about ease of access to the school. Children should be able to walk to their school. Research clearly demonstrates that children who walk or bike to school (remember when that was a thing?) concentrate better. It also encourages outdoor activity, at a time when we have become more sedentary homebodies. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to Schools, in 2009 only 35% of k-8 students walked to school, down from 89% in 1969. These numbers are old, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that number has fallen even farther in recent years. Students attending a neighborhood school are not reliant on a parent with a car, or early morning busing, things that favor higher income families without two working parents. A neighborhood school allows students and families to become part of a community. (More on community schools next week...) “Neighborhood schools” discussions usually occur in urban areas, but much of what happens in urban neighborhoods is happening here in Lancaster County. Giving a child a good local foundation like a neighborhood school is universal and should be a goal for every school system.
Of course there are budgetary concerns, and we should be honest and serious about them. Closing a school completely has other financial implications, including the building itself. A school district that is losing families should not pay for empty buildings. Unfortunately, as schools have closed in other areas over the past 20 years due to shifts in population, the districts are not recouping that money as school buildings are sitting vacant and unsold. The decision to close a school outright versus looking at other uses to combine with a school should be investigated by any school board facing this issue.
As Warwick is looking at a declining student body count for the foreseeable future and having to make some difficult decisions, I want to be a part of that discussion on the Board. A school board populated by one party can not fully represent all the families, all the voices that need to be heard, with topics like closing or shifting a school’s purpose. I feel I am prepared to be a part of that discussion, as a board member, as a parent, as a business leader, and as an educator.