What is best for all RSU 29 students?

10 years ago

To the editor:
    Does our community value children? Most definitely! It is evident in various ways throughout our community. Yet it was with great sadness that I have read the articles regarding the closing of Wellington School. For several reasons, I found myself getting increasingly angry and frustrated the more I read the article in the April 2 edition of the Pioneer Times as well as the article from a previous edition.

    First of all, Fred Grant stated, “The reason this has really come to the forefront is finances.” The article then stated that the estimated savings would be about $188,730. At first glance, one is inclined to think that that makes sense and it certainly is an impressive figure. However, that is the only exact figure that was listed in the article.

    Mr. Hammer reports that the district will be leasing two portable buildings to be placed at Houlton Elementary School. What is the total cost for this including groundwork, electrical, plumbing, security? Will a hallway have to be built or will students have to go outside to get to the buildings?

    He also reported that although the bus routes wouldn’t change, he failed to mention the cost of upgrading at least three buses as well as the projected increase in transportation costs. The distance between the two schools is 13 miles, but how many miles will even our smallest students have to travel to get to school?

    One of the points in the previous article was that if Wellington closed, the district would save enough money to be able to offer an art program, but in the most recent article there was no mention of hiring an art teacher for next year. Several, much smaller, area districts have long offered art to all of their students in spite of the budgetary concerns because they value its part in a students’ overall education. Again, if we truly believed, as I do, that art is a necessary part of a child’s education, we would already have an art program available to all students. When my daughter was a student at Wellington, the PTO paid for a local artist to come to school on a regular basis to teach art to the students which I truly appreciated.

    If you look at our combined communities, cost has rarely been a reason we gave up on something. Building the community arts center is a perfect example. I’m sure at first, the project and goal seemed insurmountable, but because this group of individuals believed that it was beneficial to our community, they made it happen!

    As to the issue of declining enrollment, what exactly is the enrollment history? When my daughter was a student there 10 years ago, the school had about the same number of students. Have the parents who currently send their children to Houlton been surveyed to find out why they choose to do so?

    For these reasons, I have to wonder if the “savings” is worth it. I was impressed that School Board Representative Sandra Henderson was the only person who seemed to recognize that in reality, the money “saved” will be minimal, if not nonexistent.

    How about we shift our focus from the business viewpoint and ask ourselves, “What is best for students?” Is it best for our students to be put in a larger class given the increase in demands for learning our students currently face? Is it best for students to ride an hour or more each day on the bus to get to school? Is it best that students lose the educational opportunities that can only be offered in a smaller setting such as a flourishing school garden to learn science, a walking club and ski club that includes all students, theater performance that all kids participate in yearly, and art to name a very few examples.

    If we base our discussion of whether or not to close Wellington on what is best for students, weigh the options and decide that yes, in the end our students will be better served leaving their small local school and traveling to Houlton, then so be it. If, on the other hand, we see that that is not the case, we look at what we can do to preserve our community school and we make it happen! Let’s work from the lens of what’s best for our students’ overall education, which must be our first and foremost goal.

Sara Deveau