By TARA HETTINGER
On Monday, New Albany Mayor Doug England told a group of concerned parents and community members — who are fighting to keep Silver Street Elementary open — that he understands the importance of being able to walk to school.
He did just that as a child.
He said that helps him understand the position and feelings they have, as the neighborhood school is being considered for closure by the Resources for Results committee.
That committee — started by New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent Dennis Brooks — began more than two years ago with the task to come up with ideas for Brooks and the school board on how to better allocate the schools’ resources. School board and committee member Lee Ann Wiseheart said during that time they have looked at many options, such as doing nothing, reworking school district lines and investing millions in Silver Street to bring it up to Americans with Disabilities Act codes.
Though meeting notes from May show the committee is considering three options: two involve closing Pine View Elementary and one involves closing Silver Street. Those notes also say the committee agreed to move those ideas into a more detailed review stage.
Rumors have been going around that Silver Street is being considered for closure. Those, along with meeting notes leaked to community members that showed just that, caused supporters to rally together and to gain support.
Now, they are turning to the mayor, for more backing.
England told the group he is in favor of keeping the school open, because it encourages walkers and helps to define the area.
“The school is the heart of the neighborhood and if you take the heart away, the neighborhood just dies,” England said.
England mentioned that this isn’t the first time this issue has come up. He said during his mayoral term in the 1990s, parents fought to keep the school open. England said he believes those parents and community members were successful back then due to them being active and vocal with their concerns.
Those in the meeting said they were trying to do just that.
Amy Robinson, whose children go to Silver Street, quoted school board member Neal Smith, who had said during the last school board meeting that he felt people were jumping the gun and should wait for the committee to ask the public for comments in September.
However, supporters told the mayor and Carl Malysz, deputy mayor and director of development, that they are scared that they won’t have enough time to give their opinions and help the committee come up with ideas, since it is slated to give the final report to the superintendent and school board in October.
Supporters said although they love their school, this issue goes much deeper.
“I’ve never gone to that school and my kids don’t go to that school,” Stephen Pacciano said. “However, I see the importance of that [Silver Street] being a foundational component to our neighborhood.”
“I don’t want to see any school closed, because I think that would cause immediate over-crowding,” Kathy Ayres said.
England told those at the meeting that if they continue to work hard, he believes they will see positive results.
However, the level of optimism varies among the supporters.
“I think the high gas prices will work in our favor,” Vicky Nugent said, referring to more people moving to the city to lessen commutes. She said that will cause enrollment in the schools to rise.
“I don’t know what’s next,” Robinson said. “I’m just sitting back and keeping myself as informed as possible so I can be objective and feel like I’m getting my information first hand.”
Some supporters plan on meeting with Brooks today. Meanwhile, England said he will share his concerns with Brooks at a private meeting on Wednesday.
As for Wiseheart, she said she came to the meeting since it is her duty to hear people’s concerns as an elected official. She said she plans on taking the information she heard back to the committee and school board members for their consideration.
Inside Resources for Results: the three options being studied
• OPTION 1: CLOSE SILVER STREET ELEMENTARY — Move Silver Street Elementary students to Fairmont, Slate Run, S. Ellen Jones and Pine View elementaries.
• OPTION 2: CLOSE PINE VIEW ELEMENTARY — Send Pine View students to S. Ellen Jones and Fairmont.
• OPTION 3: CLOSE PINE VIEW ELEMENTARY — Change boundaries for each of the following schools: Mt. Tabor, Green Valley, S. Ellen Jones and possibly Fairmont elementaries. Move Pine View students to Green Valley and S. Ellen Jones.
Resources for Results tentative timeline:
• June-July: Further detailing of options — review by various departments such as transportation and curriculum.
• August: Final review by committee
• September: Public meetings
• October: Completion and submission of report to superintendent and school board
READ ALL ABOUT IT
• To read detailed Resources for Results meeting notes, including options the group is considering, go to www.newsandtribune.com. Condensed versions and a list of committee members can be found at www.nafcs.k12.in.us. Click on “Parents and Community” and then on “Resources for Results.”