District rushing Applegate School closure

Recently the Three Rivers School District has directed a "Rightsizing Committee" to make recommendations on how to cut because of budget shortfalls. I believe the Three Rivers School District is taking action in a rushed, unplanned and unethical manner. They have slated several rural schools for possible closure due to lack of planning.

The district is looking at closing schools and impacting the lives of children in a rushed and unthoughtful manner. The district has charged the "Right Sizing Committee" with making recommendations by March 2008, to be in effect by the 2008-2009 school year.

Three Rivers School District School Closure Policy F.FL-AR states that when considering "retirement of a school building," a specific School Study Committee will be formed consisting of seven to 12 members of the school community and three to five staff members from the building being considered. Meetings about the topic are to begin in the affected community beginning in October. The Three Rivers School District has decided to ignore its own policy and proceed with consideration of school closure without allowing for community feedback or planning.

The district acted unethically by not adequately publicizing "Right Sizing Committee" appointments or meetings. They have not allowed for adequate public feedback.

Parents of schools slated for possible closure received a notice on Nov. 21 advising that the Rightsizing Committee had already been appointed and that two meetings had already taken place. Reference was made to upcoming meetings, but no times or locations were provided.

At the last meeting on Jan. 15, the community members present were not given the opportunity to address the committee until after decision-making was completed. The facilitator wasted 45 minutes in the beginning of the meeting on "feel-good" verbiage and then allowed less than five minutes for public feedback — after the meeting had concluded and the media had left.

The Three Rivers School District has failed to plan effectively. Declining enrollment in the district is nothing new. Enrollment has been declining in this district for years. It is lack of planning by the board and the district directors that now makes this a rushed decision.

Oregon has traditionally been rural. Oregon has educated rural children for decades, and in the case of Applegate School, for over a century. What gives the Three Rivers School District the right to ignore their own policy and rush a decision that will affect Oregon's rural children? What's next?

When district directors and School Board members fail to plan around declining enrollment, we may continue to close school after school. After all, busing children is cheaper than having children attend a school in their own community.

The Right Sizing Committee and The School Board are making this decision based on projections and estimates. They estimate enrollment and they project budget shortfalls.

The only thing that is known for sure is that these numbers are inaccurate. The directors talk about a shortfall anywhere from $500,000 to $1.8 million. That's a pretty large margin. Closing any one of the schools considered for closure will save at most $147,000. The district directors and the Board have failed to plan, and closing one small school is not going to fix the problem.

I am asking that the Three Rivers School Board make other short-term cutbacks and then follow their own policy and process for considering school closure. Give these rural Oregon communities a chance to unite, plan, organize and problem-solve. Don't disrupt the lives of Oregon's rural children because the Three Rivers School District has failed to plan and budget for Oregon's changing demographics.

Tracy Lindorf is an Applegate School parent.

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