Consolidation or not; maintain or close?
To the Editor:
America’s schools are adjusting to the decreasing student enrollments. To meet the challenges of enrollment decline, communities across the country will need to find ways to renovate old and outdated facilities. Bessemer schools are fortunate to have experienced a steady or slight increase in student population; however, there are still challenges the Bessemer School District needs to meet.
One strategy to meet the challenges of decreased enrollment is consolidation. School districts have been lured by these “consolidated schools,” believing that they are more cost-effective and student opportunities are greater. However, there is renewed interest in returning to smaller, neighborhood-based schools and avoiding consolidation. Keeping our local Bessemer Schools in Bessemer and our students a part of our community is our responsibility.
“Students are more successful when they are part of smaller, more intimate learning communities,” a recent U.S. Department of Education study said. “Security improves and violence decreases, as well as student alcohol and drug abuse.” Small school size encourages teachers to innovate and students to participate, resulting in higher grades and test scores, improved attendance rates, and lower drop-out rates.
When districts consolidate, one or more of the communities lose their school and identity. Many examples of this can be seen in the western U.P. Not only do you lose your school identity, in many cases, the buildings are also closed.
More and more community leaders are recognizing the power of schools to attract and keep residents in a neighborhood. Leaders in many small communities across the country are building or renovating schools as part of broad strategies for revitalizing low economic areas. Bessemer can be a part of this movement and can be a leader in the U.P.
States will continue to assist schools with funding, but schools are going to have to reach out to their local communities for support to supplement government funding.
Small, neighborhood-based schools are best positioned to respond to the calls for schools to be more accountable, to be more integrated into communities, and to be more resource-efficient. Given the need for the Bessemer School District to update our buildings, infrastructure and technologies, it is time for Bessemer’s citizenry to be heard. Keep our schools in Bessemer and maintain them for our students and community for many years to come. Any comments, please contact me at 906-667-0802.