West Side School the best choice

The Medford School Board had a set of unattractive options to choose from as it pondered where to move Jackson Elementary School students while their school is being reconstructed. In the end, the decision to move kindergartners through third-graders to the now-closed West Side School made the most sense.

The board made that call Tuesday night after hearing that moving the school to the rural setting for two years would make it hard for some Jackson parents to stay involved with their children's education. We recognize that difficulty, but also recognize that there is no option that doesn't have a significant downside.

The tough choice was forced on the district by the news that two elementary schools — Jackson and Roosevelt — were no longer safe to occupy, due to deteriorating bricks and failing trusses. Fourth- through sixth-graders at both schools will be sent to nearby middle schools and K-3 Roosevelt students will move to Hoover Elementary School for two years. But there was no similar option available for the primary grades at Jackson.

So the school board had three choices:

  • Move the K-3 students to West Side School, which is situated about five miles west of Jackson School and a couple of miles north of Jacksonville. The school was closed in 1980.
  • Place portable classrooms on the current grounds of Jackson School.
  • Place portable classrooms on the grounds of other elementary schools.

Parents argued for placing portable classrooms on the Jackson grounds. But that would put the children immediately adjacent to a major construction site and potentially would limit designs for the new school.

The option of placing portables at other schools had the same drawbacks as the West Side School choice, but without the benefit of keeping the students together.

So that left the West Side option. It does keep the K-3 grades together and has a side benefit: Work put into bringing the building up to standards for a school means it could be leased later to a charter school or other organization, providing revenue to the district.

The K-3 students will now be bused to West Side, which is less convenient for those who lived close to Jackson, but perhaps better for some who have had to walk greater distances. It does cause problems for parents who visited the school, but discussions are under way to develop a shuttle so they could reach the new school site (funding would come from donations and volunteers).

The option chosen by the School Board will provide unity for the students, a possible future revenue stream and clear the way for the best possible design on a replacement school. Is it a perfect solution? No, but it's the best of the choices available.

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