Bigger isn’t always better

I covered my first school board meeting in 1986 while working for the Clemson Messenger, and there began my real education. Dr. Curtis Sidden was the superintendent of education.

There have been many changes since 1986. There have been many different school boards and administrators. Some are more olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddknowledgeable of the education system than others. But they are all made up of people who are willing to dedicate hundreds of hours each year to public service. Some have one goal to accomplish and are disinterested in anything that doesn’t help them reach that one goal.

Some who serve come in thinking they can change the system and make drastic reforms. Some can compromise, and some won’t consider compromise.

All want children to receive the best education that is available. The bone of contention is always how that can be accomplished.

I was very fortunate to go to a small school. There were 200 students in grades one through 12. My graduating class was the largest in history, with 21 students.

Every student was important.

Smaller class sizes allowed teachers to give individual students attention. Teachers knew when we got it and when we didn’t. We weren’t treated as numbers, but as people.

The school and churches were the center of the community and bound everyone together. It was an excellent way to get an education.

Not everything in education should be evaluated based on cost. Figures can be manipulated and sometimes are to support one position or another.

Can millions of dollars be saved by closing three small elementary schools? That’s debatable. And even if it turns out to be true, should that be the deciding factor?

In the past, we’ve all seen millions wasted and opportunities squandered. Sometimes various school boards have indeed “gagged at a gnat and swallowed a camel.”

Yes, children can be bused to larger schools, and it will cut the cost of heating and cooling buildings and it will cut the number of teachers needed when classrooms are consolidated and fewer teachers have more students.

How will that help these children learn? I don’t think it will. I’ve visited all three of these elementary schools facing the chopping block. They all enjoy community support and involvement. They all offer children a sense of security and emotional support so needed when dealing with the very young.

And the smaller number of students in these schools is a real advantage for the children attending Holly Springs, Ambler and A.R. Lewis.

It is to be hoped that the campaign to close these schools will fail. We all have a stake in the education of the children of Pickens County.