Rural school families remain skeptical; Baldwin parent group trying to reach out
The vote to close the Vinland and Marion Springs Elementary Schools has left many members of those communities upset with the Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education. Although some parents are trying to move forward with the decision to close the schools, many are still grieving the loss.http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=LW7ruwWitOE
“I’m not a Baldwin City community member. I’m a Vinland community member, but now I’m going to basically be forced to be a Baldwin City community member,” said Lisa Smith, Vinland Elementary School parent.
Many rural school parents chose to live in the areas because of the schools and community. Some families do not live in the district but have enrolled their children in Vinland or Marion Springs.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpXeUw0nagk&feature=player_profilepage
About 25 out-of-the-district students attend Marion Springs.
“My son doesn’t live in the area in the school district, but he brings his son to (Marion Springs Elementary School) because he had a good experience and this is where he wanted (his children) to go,” grandparent Debbie Guenther said.
Parents at the Baldwin elementary schools sympathize with the parents from Marion Springs and Vinland, and some understand why families in the schools are upset.
“Both of those schools have traditions that are wonderful traditions to have, and I think that’s why it is such an emotionally charged thing,” Baldwin Elementary School parent Sara Barth said.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKfMA_cHixE&feature=player_profilepage
Many people in the community are reluctant to discuss the closings. For this story, emails were sent to teachers and calls were made to parents, but few of the people contacted responded for comment on the issue. Many declined comment because they didn’t want trouble or wanted to move on now that the decision has been made.
Christie Darnell, Parent Teacher Organization co-president at the Baldwin City elementary schools, has been working with the rural schools organizations to try to help make the transition smooth.
“I really can’t totally relate to that because it wasn’t my loss, but I am just trying my best to make (Baldwin Elementary School Primary and Intermediate Centers) a safe place to land,” Darnell said.
Some parents at the rural schools don’t think they will be as needed or welcomed into the parent teacher organizations at the Baldwin elementary schools.
“I will support and try to help where I can but I won’t be nearly as involved next year as I am this year,” said Grace Wagner, Vinland Elementary School Community School Organization president.
Although district administrators as well as PTO presidents at the schools say they are trying to work together, doubts persist about sending students to the schools in Baldwin City.
“It’s just going to be culture shock. I’m afraid for my children and for myself,” Smith said.
Parents at all of the district’s elementary schools had questions about how their children would be affected by the move and what the district would do to address those situations.
“I think class sizes were the main concern for me, questioning how that was going to look and how many kids there was going be per grade,” Barth said. “Also, if we have enough space in town to be able to house those kids that come in from out of town.”
The Marion Springs and Vinland areas are close-knit communities, and the schools’ closings will have consequences beyond the pupils and parents.
“The closing of the school means also the closing of a community. We do a lot of social activities that brings our community together that supports the school,” said Kim Beilfuss, Marion Springs Community School Organization president. “It’s not just the parents and the kids, it’s also the lifelong members of this community.”
As parents try to move on and embrace the new community they’re been forced into, some still find it difficult to see anything other than the negatives of closing the schools.
“I’m sure there’s something positive,” Wagner said. “Its kind of hard to see right now. I mean, it’s still very fresh.”
Though the decision may be harsh to the community, it wasn’t made easily or without consequence.
“I’ve never endured anything more difficult in my life,” said Alison Bauer, president of the Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education. “I’ve had a lot of people say really ugly, ugly things, and it’s just made me tougher. It’ll be all right. I’ll survive, but I think I did what was best for kids.”
Meagan Thomas, Genevieve Des Marteau and Xiomara Nunez are students in an advanced reporting class at Baker University.