Few decisions are tougher than whether to close a school.
Opposition is fiercely emotional. Virtually no one speaks in support of it. In our small communities where everyone knows everyone else, friendships can be lost over the issue.
The decision is hard because, inevitably in the long run, closing the school is the right thing to do - for the school district and, more important, for the best interests of students' education.
Recall that Jamestown School Board members had to vote on whether to close Rogers Elementary School at the end of this school year and send students to Fletcher and Bush. Resistance from parents was, understandably, firm and emotional. But the district will save nearly a million dollars, and at a time when tight budgets are forcing the district to lay off teachers, closing the school was the right thing to do.
This week, members of the board of education at the Cattaraugus-Little Valley School District took their turn, casting a vote Monday evening to close an elementary school and have the children attend a school about 8 miles up the road.
The very real and emotional fact of the matter is that when the two districts were combined more than a dozen years ago, folks in Little Valley were promised their elementary school building would never be closed. Their reliance on the promise was all the more important because Little Valley lost its high school, which was relocated to the village of Cattaraugus in the new district.
The awkward compromise has pre-kindergarten through second grade students from the entire district attending school in Cattaraugus. Then, when they are in third and fourth grade, they go to school in Little Valley. The elementary schools, by the way, share the same principal.
As you know, this has been a very difficult time. Some of the residents in Little Valley who fought to keep their school are bitter and angry that the board decided Monday, with a 5-2 vote, to close the Little Valley campus.
We hope in time they come to understand that, in today's world of tight finances, the old arrangement simply does not make good fiscal sense and there is no sound educational reason to have two separate buildings.
Clearly, the board members did their duty - they made the decision based on the long-term best interests of all of the students and the education they will receive in the Cattaraugus-Little Valley School District.