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Closing of Rail Road Flat Elementary School

It is such a shame that our school system is in such bad shape. We all understand that many cuts will need to be made in order to make the budget work. However, one cut that was mentioned in both articles really struck a chord for me. Closing of Rail Road Flat Elementary School. How very frustrating that we are going to go down this road again! We have been fighting this fight for long enough. I think it is time you realized this is not a good option.
It seems like not too long ago we were celebrating because the board voted this down. Obviously we had convinced the majority of school board members that keeping Rail Road Flat open was the right thing to do. Why bring this up again? Did you really not for see that we will still be having financial problems again this year?! As Sherry Reusche said ” We have to be fiscally responsible” Well, how fiscally responsible was it to put the children and the community through all the anxiety and frustration last year just to do it all over again this year? If you have to figure the budget ahead of time and have a 3 year projection, how could you make that decision and then throw it out the window not even a year later? Did you know this was going to happen again when you let us all celebrate in that board room less then a year ago?

Now, personally I think that closing any school is a bad idea, but there are other schools in this district that could be considered besides Rail Road Flat. The two other small schools up here haven’t even been mentioned. The school size is relatively close for all 3 schools. The major difference is that there is an alternative school within 10 miles of the other two. Mokelumne Hill and West Point also have other points of interest within their communities besides their school. The communities would not perish if the school shut down. The children at West Point already know children from Rail Road Flat because they are so close. If you absolutely cannot get around shutting a school down, at least West Point kids could go to Rail Road or Mokelumne Hill kids could go to San Andreas, less then 10 miles away. If you shut Rail Road Flat down, they can’t even go to West Point; they will be required to go to Mokelumne Hill or San Andreas. That means a bus ride that is over an hour long to and from school. You will also be devastating an entire town.
As a community, Rail Road Flat came together to help keep our school open. As a school, we have also made several adjustments and sacrifices to help with the current budget situation. We had a fundraiser in June called the Tiger Fest to support keeping the school open. We raised over $16,000 in this effort.

What other school in this district is doing anything (but what cuts they are required to do) to help you with your budget issues?

What other school in this district has been recognized as one of the best schools in the nation?

The answer to both of those questions is simple. None. Rail Road Flat Elementary School, with its 80% poverty level, was voted one of only 300 schools in the nation to receive nation accreditation as one of the best.

Why in the world would you choose this school to shun?

You should be proud of this school and its excellent teaching staff and children. We have proved ourselves time and time again. Yet, we are always the one on the chopping block. If you put more children in this school from West Point, that would be 100 more children receiving the best education in this district! Think about that. Do you really want to take that away from our kids and completely devastate our community so that you can save an incredibly small portion of your budget?! We may bring in less money then the other schools, but our children have the best education.

If you really think you are going to save a lot of money by shutting the school down, I think you are sadly mistaken. There are several parents that have already gotten together to figure out what we will do if you follow through on shutting us down. Our children will not be put back into the district. We will homeschool or start a charter school. The research has been done and the plans are getting in place in case of the worst case scenario. You will not receive any money for these children. Parents up here would much rather see their children educated in the community they live in rather then putting them on a bus for over an hour to be lost in the mix at the already over crowded schools.

We have come together as a community for the last couple years to help the school. We will come together again to help our children have the best education possible. That is not what they will get if they are shipped to the other schools and we all know that. You will be spending more money on transportation and lose money on the kids you will not get back in the district. In addition to that, a lot of the children in this area are from broken or struggling homes and this school is as close to a family structure as they have. You will be ripping that away from them. Also, unfortunately many children’s education will be neglected because some parents will not even get them to school if it is further away. You have to take into consideration the lives you are toying with.
There are a lot of other cuts/adjustments that you can make to help with the financial impact. For starters, how about making the school board positions voluntary? When you get into education as a career, it is obviously not about the money. I am sure there would be people in this field that would care enough about the children to volunteer their time. The school district should start from the top and make the cuts, not the bottom! That would be the “fiscally responsible” thing to do. Pay cuts, initiating more volunteer positions, layoffs, furlough days, program cuts, paying for sports/music/ transportation to events and field trips etc. can all be reversed when the economy recovers. The school will not be reopened. I agree with Mr. Nagle when he said we need to “spread the pain”. The kids should be the absolute last people to feel this pain. It is not their fault we are all in this position. Many of the children up here are already feeling the pain from this recession in other ways.

So, in conclusion, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I hope that this issue can be resolved professionally and considerately. Even though Rail Road Flat may be the poorest community (financially), we are still people. We still count. These are real people and real lives you are affecting. Those are real children you are hurting. Not just numbers you can shuffle around to make the budget work.

I believe that when you choose to be in the field of education, you choose to stand up for our children and do what is best for them. Not yourselves or the people pushing you to do the wrong thing in order to save themselves or fatten their wallets. We as a community are willing to do what it takes to help keep this school open, from volunteering to fundraising. Closing down the school will not only be fiscally irresponsible, but morally irresponsible as well.
For more information, to make a tax deductible donation, or to help with the effort to keep our school open, please contact Friends of Rail Road Flat School. Po Box 217 Rail Road Flat, Ca 95248 This letter is not from the Friends of Rail Road Flat school and it does not specifically reflect the views of all members.