Last spring, the future of Rail Road Flat Elementary School was uncertain.
It still is, but the school once more received students with the reopening of Calaveras Unified School District classrooms July 26.
Declining enrollments over the past several years have put Rail Road Flat´s continued use in jeopardy.
“The incoming kindergarten class is about half the size of last year´s outgoing sixth grade,” Principal Ed Collett said.
In June, the school advanced 20 students to Toyon Middle School. On opening day, it had nine children in kindergarten.
Current enrollment at Rail Road Flat is 94 students, about the same as the start of last year.
“Tomorrow, it could be 92 n or 96,” he said.
The school hopes to pick up 15 or so students and continue to provide “a good, solid K-6 program.”
Tightening budgets have only augmented the threats to the school´s existence.
“San Juan Unified (near Sacramento) closed down four schools under 300 this year. They would tell you a school under 350 is not viable,” said district Superintendent Jim Frost. “But, that is a different situation down there. We´re reticent to close any school.
“We´re going to try to keep that going, cutting costs where we can. It is important to the area,” he said.
“The board and the superintendent are committed to trying to keep the school going,” Collet said.
Although neither the principal nor the superintendent provided details, Collet said there has been discussion of ways to keep the school functioning in some capacity.
Frost said he hates to close down any elementary school.
“I see today´s small schools, down the years, becoming larger. Mokelumne Hill is going to grow. West Point is going to grow,” he said.
Moving on to Toyon Middle School next year, many leaving behind the only school they have ever attended, at least four of Rail Road Flat´s eight sixth-graders have mixed feelings about their condition.
Asked how she felt about the school remaining open, Debbie Ishie said, “I think it´s great, because it´s a good school. They have good teachers.”
If the school had closed this year, “I´d be sort of sad n and mad n because I feel real comfortable here. I´m really nervous about (going to Toyon), but I´ll get used to it.”
“I´m glad to be here,” said Eli Thom, one of the school´s two sixth-grade boys. “I´ve gone to school here since kindergarten. If the school had closed, my friends would have been split up n some going to Mokelumne Hill, some to West Point.”
Although happy to be at Rail Road Flat, Thom also said he is looking forward to Toyon next year, “because I´ll get to see some of my older friends who went there this year.”
Britainy Thruston, who previously lived in Arizona, has been going to Rail Road Flat for 2½ years.
“This school is really cool,” she said.
“I´m looking forward to going to Toyon,” she added. “It´ll be a good experience.”
“I wouldn´t have liked to go to any other school, because this is the only school I´ve ever been to,” Brady Dubois said.
Parent Donna Browning, who moved to Glencoe from Stockton in February, also is glad the school remained open. Her daughter is in the fourth grade.
“Wherever she goes to school, I drive her. I´m glad she can go to Rail Road Flat.”
Browning said she is still unaccustomed to driving in the area and apprehensive of the roads to West Point and Mokelumne Hill.
“This is a great school. They have a great principal. The teachers care more about how the kids are doing. I appreciate that,” she said. “I feel more comfortable with her in school here than I ever did in Stockton. My daughter loves it here.”
Calaveras Enterprise story by John Hall. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com