COLLINSVILLE — A large crowd of parents protested a Unit 10 proposal to redraw bus transportation lines and close Twin Echo Elementary School Monday.
Superintendent Robert Green told the parents, who nearly filled Collinsville High School's auditorium, that state budget cuts will require trimming the budget: the district is currently receiving $2 million less and that shortfall could be nearly doubled, he said.
"We've got a serious problem we have to deal with locally, because the people in Springfield aren't," Green said. "Twin Echo is a good school. Does it make sense to close it? From an educational standpoint, no. From a financial standpoint, we may not have a choice."
An independent consultant recommended two plans to the district. The first option would redraw boundaries to eliminate one bus route at a savings of $50,000. More savings could be realized, up to the cost of three more buses, by changing bell times.
The second option would close Twin Echo Elementary and turn it into an early education center, most of whose students would not receive busing. Twin Echo students would be redistricted to other schools.
Green said redrawing the boundaries would allow some students to attend the school closer to them; in some cases, children are bused past two closer schools to attend a third. The proposals do not affect busing for the intermediate, middle or high schools.
But other parents said the proposed new boundaries don't make any sense. Grant Koentz said he chose his home because it was less than a mile from Jefferson Elementary. Under the new boundaries, his daughter would have to attend Caseyville Elementary, nearly six miles away. Right now, he said, his daughter does not need a bus at all.
"She will flourish at any school you send her to, but that is not the point," Koentz said. "She will not be able to ride her bike to school, as she can now... I fail to see how this is a cost-saving measure."
Likewise, Michelle Wilson said she can see Jefferson Elementary from her roof and can walk her daughter to school. Sending her on a bus to Caseyville doesn't make sense, she said.
Juliana Wright, vice president of the Twin Echo parent-teacher association, said they believe the new boundaries will lead to more students needing buses, not fewer. "There's a lot that needs to be done to this study to make sense," she said. "If you were going to pay for consulting studies... why did we not have them look at the entire district? K-4 students are not the only students who ride buses."
Sherri Burns, president of the Kreitner parent-teacher association, said many of their early-education families live in Fairmont City and could not easily provide transportation to Twin Echo; it would take at least an hour each way on city buses for two hours of preschool, she said.
And for many parents, the neighborhood school was the reason they cited for choosing their home. "I'm sure the teachers at (Caseyville) try very hard, but if we wanted our children to go there, we would have moved to Caseyville," said parent Bill Metzger. "Jefferson is not just a school, but like a large extended family."
Second-grader Peyton DeVan said the same thing about Twin Echo. "Please do not close Twin Echo, because it is my favorite school ever," she said. "Twin Echo is not just a school, it is a family, and I love my school family."
Lindsay Serrano, Twin Echo PTA president, criticized the school board for considering closing a school after last year's $1.3 million athletic field improvement. "This board is valuing aesthetics and appeal over necessity and public consensus," she said.
And parent Sylvia Strackeljahn gave a list of her suggested cuts, including transportation for extracurriculars and sports. "I realize some of these cuts might seem unthinkable, but closing Twin Echo or any elementary school seems unthinkable to me," she said.
Board President Gary Peccola stressed that no action is being taken right away. "Nothing is set in stone," he told the crowd. "We're here to get information from the admininistration and from you."
Green said he will counsel the school board to take its time and examine all possible choices before making any decisions.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.