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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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December 14, 2004

School closures

It was understandable, even predictable that some would greet with dismay Seattle Public Schools' interest in closing under-utilized schools to save money. Seattle has rightly moved toward neighborhood schools.

So it is only logical that some parents would question if Superintendent Raj Manhas' talk of school closures represents a prudent use of resources or an unfortunate reversal in policy.

As far as I can see -- which in this case isn't very far because school closures is still an unformed idea rather than a policy proposal before the School Board -- Manhas is taking a smart, business-oriented approach to the problem of dwindling education resources. The district does not have enough money, nor should it, to pay for schools run inefficiently or sloppily. This is not about abandoning the small-schools educational strategy currently in vogue.

While criteria for school closures has not been set, it would be shocking if the board shut down successful schools merely because they were small. Indeed, Mary Bass, the board's former president, said that is exactly what will not happen.

Instead, some schools might be examined to see if they would do better merged with another more successful school. Some might be expanded from kindergarten to sixth grade to kindergarten to eight grades. Given the popularity of K-8 schools, it might work out that cost-cutting equals customer service.

There will always be critics angry at Manhas for simply breathing. But logic, in this case, ought to trump emotion. A third of Seattle's school buildings go under-used. The district has closed schools before and reaped strong financial benefits through outright building sales or long-term leases.

Lastly, unhealthy budget numbers in school districts across the nation are pointing to a choice between our classrooms or bricks and mortars. I choose to save our classrooms and the children in them.

Respond to Lynne

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Posted by at December 14, 2004 01:48 PM



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