Letter to the editor: We should celebrate, strengthen small schools

Some notes regarding the July 15 article “Riptonites lobby for preservation of their school”:
First, one of the key strengths of our communities are our small schools and it is not smart to give away strength. Of course we should strive for the best education possible — and do so at a reasonable cost — but we should also recognize the social consequence of the proposals. It’s not just the education system, it’s the social fabric of these towns. It is bad for towns to have their schools altered from the current and long-time standard.
Second, the current case of one town — the fine town of Ripton is the one — being stronger or louder in their case against the foreseen changes is a product not of the degree of need of the town but of the different constituencies of the towns, Ripton being, for a number of reasons, more heard in this — which can’t but hurt the other schools. All the towns — Shoreham, for one, for example — will be hurt when the proposed changes are made. One sign in the photograph with the recent article says “Don’t close my school,” another says “Don’t close our schools.” The second is better for all of us, I think.
And it’s not just “closing,” even the idea of changing grades offered in these schools will be harmful to the community.
Third, please stop writing “declining enrollment” without further research and explanation. Some schools are growing now and may continue to if the current structures aren’t changed. This is good for the students and good for the town. Please present — in this type of article — those figures and please balance figures and projections made by one interested party — in this case, the district — with the other side of this tale. The present reporting doesn’t tell enough of the story and in telling only part, inadvertently reinforces one viewpoint over others.
The district board is faced, as often, with hard decisions. I might — if I was on that board — come to the conclusions they may come to. But I know, seemingly better than they, the societal and communal consequences of what they apparently believe themselves forced into. And I’m trying, as others are, to get them to help us.
Yep, we want to save money and, yep, we want good education. And, yes, we think that moves toward these two goals that hurt communities in other ways will not be worth whatever benefits changing our schools will bring. We should celebrate, and strengthen, small schools and small communities, many of these are benefiting from our long tradition and thriving right now. The very thought of the district’s hand over them is disheartening.
Robert Bernstein

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