'It wasn't what we wanted to do, it's what we had to do'
ROSEBURG, Ore. -- After a difficult decision was made by the Roseburg School District Board Wednesday night, now a possibly even worse one looms: Which Roseburg school will have to close?
Dr. Larry Parsons, the Roseburg schools superintendent, said it was not an easy decision for anyone to make. "It was a very bitter choice for all of us on the board because it wasn't what we wanted to do, it's what we had to do," he said.
After nearly two years of discussion, the board has decided to close down one of its nine schools as of this fall.
The motion passed by a narrow 4-3 margin.
Parsons said he doesn't think the split vote will have an effect on how well the board works together. "As you heard, when the vote is done, we'll come together and we'll move on. So, no, I'm not bothered by it being four to three," he said.
Officials say the school district needs money to fund building maintenance, technology upgrades and curriculum improvements.
Roseburg resident Judy Kulluson attended some of the district's work sessions, and said that she could see the need for the closure. "Where there was a work session, those of us who were here had an opportunity to hear that there are many more reasons than just buying textbooks to close the school."
Steve Patterson is the chair of the board, and he explained what the decision will mean for the district financially. "The school closure itself can generate a savings anywhere from around $300,000 to $400,000, maybe even close to $500,000."
That money will be used for core necessities, including improving the district's seven year old curriculum.
Patterson said that nobody on the board wanted this decision to happen, but they feel it is the right thing to do at this time. "This is not a happy night for anybody on the board. I was born and raised in Roseburg, graduated from Roseburg High School. This is not something that we anticipated," he said. "This is not something that we ever signed up for, but will all the information that's available to us, it's the best decision for us, for the kids."
Kulluson also spoke about what the students would have to miss out on if all of the schools remained open. "Keeping all these schools open means that no elementary school student has music more than a third of the year," she said.
Officials say the decision to close one of the schools was made after other funding options failed, including a levy that was discussed in 2012. "Many of us were very optimistic about the levy," said Patterson. "We actually voted unanimously for it to run this fall, back in the spring."
Parsons said they scrapped the idea of a levy due to lack of support. "We could only get four or five people to be a part of the levy campaign," Parsons said. "You just can't run a campaign that way. It was clear that the support wasn't there, to pass a levy."
Patterson says that although people may be upset about the closure, the board tried everything to avoid it happening. "I don't think any of us are happy the way it went. It's not something we took lightly. That's why it took us so long to come to a decision at all. We've been discussing this for over a year now, close to two years," he said. "Some people in the community have actually criticized us for not taking action sooner, but we really wanted to look at all of the options available."
A previous citizen's committee had recommended that Green or Rose elementary be closed, but Patterson says that as of now, any of the nine schools could be chosen.