NEW COLUMBIA – Small community school pride is on the line as the Milton School Board considers closing Montandon Elementary School, “I have been at Montandon Elementary when school lets out. It’s the most wonderful thing to see the principal out there giving those kids a high five as they get on the bus. Those kids are so proud. I don’t think you’re going to find that at Baugher (Elementary).”
That’s Pamela Harpster, a school grandparent, who was one of 15 people who spoke to the board at a public hearing Tuesday night at White Deer Elementary. There were about 70 people in attendance. The board is considering closing the school due to declining enrollment, and staff reductions and limitations. Mounting building repairs are also a concern of the board, despite the school being the newest district building.
Parent Carrie Beachy says closing the school and possibly merging it with Baugher Elementary would decrease student achievement, “We have a lot of kids that live in challenging home situations. In a larger school, sometimes those children sort of fall through the cracks. In a small community school, a student isn’t just passed on to the next grade; the teacher is seeing them every day in the school and still knowing them. Schools that have less than 300 students, statistically they just do better.”
In a presentation before public comment, district officials showed projected numbers indicating future declining enrollment in grades kindergarten through 2nd grade, and mixed numbers in grades three through five.
But many parents, including Lindsay Kessler of Milton, say the growth is coming, “There’s also still 23 lots still available for purchase, so add two kids in each one of those homes, you’re looking at another 60 kids at the most. The close proximity to Montandon Elementary to our subdivision is not only a wonderful selling point for our division, but it also benefits the district by increasing its tax base with new homes.”
A few other parents mentioned how the ongoing CSVT project would greatly benefit the school district. The earliest the board can vote on the school’s status is June 5.