All things considered

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We applaud the Aurelia School District and community for persisting to explore all pertinent avenues regarding possible future school sharing with neighboring districts in Cherokee and/or Alta.

It is crucial for the Aurelia School Board and Administration to consider all appropriate options, to glean all the information available, and to eventually reach agreement on what they consider to be the most viable and prudent path to follow for all concerned, including the students, the District, the faculty, and the community.

Merging, sharing, or closing one's school district is a daunting and traumatic evolution for all concerned. Nobody wants to see that happen even to the smallest of communities, yet dozens of Iowa School Districts have and are fighting the same fight to do all they can to save the status quo of their local school district.

However, it always boils down to a numbers game, and lowering enrollments beget fewer State dollars, that beget shrinking budgets, that beget severed programs and services, that beget a lessening quality of education and educators, that beget lessening student achievements, that will ultimately ring the death knell of a District.

At the recent Cherokee Mental Health Institute meeting with the special Legislative Task Force studying the possibility of closing one of Iowa's four MHIs, a speaker, who happened to also fly an airplane with its bird's-eye views, intoned that if the State wanted to save money, it should simply get rid of many of the gravel roads in Iowa.

People laughed at such a shocking statement.

However, if you really think about it, the continued steep decline in the number of Iowa farmers that will never replenish, the steep decline of rural Iowa's population, and therefore fewer reasons to travel to small rural towns as destinations, gives great merit to what many thought to be a frivolous statement.

Think of the added, valuable tillable acres shutting down hundreds of gravel roads and their rights-of-way for miles and miles would produce. Think of the savings on maintenance for the counties. After all, what good are roads leading to empty farmsteads, a great many which have already been plowed under for cropland?

Decisions of this ilk are heartbreaking and extremely difficult to make. We commiserate fully with the decision makers. We urge them to proceed cautiously, but with a sense of purpose in finding a workable solution.

And then we must move on and make the most of it, knowing that no stone was left unturned, and that it was all done with the interests best-served of the people most affected.