Will There Be A M”E”SD?

Editor: Mr. Ueckert is a resident of Edgewood interested in education in the community.  We appreciate his desire to express his opinions on the important issues facing the Moriarty-Edgewood School District (MESD)

The Future of “E” in MESD

By Jerry Ueckert

Who can say what will happen should MESD carry through and shutter Edgewood Elementary? Personally, I would like to see Moriarty and Edgewood grow together in a mutually beneficial relationship, but MESD seems bent on biting the hand that feeds it.

The Great Depression couldn’t kill Edgewood’s school or community spirit. The old Edgewood Schoolhouse was built as part of Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration and community members joined together to construct the school from indigenous materials on land donated by the Bassett family. That school served generations of Edgewood families from 1938 to 1960, but after consolidation into the Moriarty District, the Edgewood school was shuttered and the community suffered a near death. By the late ‘60s, Edgewood had only an RV park, Paula Donner’s Realty, and the Horn gas station on its main street to serve as a reminder of its former days.

Once I-40 opened, Edgewood saw the addition of businesses on the four corners of the interchange, which brought new families and construction into the community. Within just a few years, Edgewood experienced a surge in population and Moriarty was too small to handle the load. A new Edgewood Elementary had to be constructed and only a few years later, an annex had to be built to keep up with the area’s growth.

Having their own school once again was cause for celebration. A revitalization of creative energy followed. Many artists began calling Edgewood home. New businesses were established and a new vision of Edgewood’s future rose from the dust.

Now it seems as if we’ve come full circle and are threatened once again with losing our elementary school. But rather than being prompted by declining enrollment or poor performance, the closure of Edgewood Elementary is based solely on finances. Evidence supporting the stated concerns of shuttering by Edgewood’s Town Council and Chamber of Commerce abound.

Elaine Simon, author of a project-based education course, “Schools and Community Development,” states, “Schools are often the one institution still surviving in low-income neighborhoods, and they serve as a point of pride and community for families. When a neighborhood loses its schools, it also loses an institution that builds relationships among local residents and binds generations, while it serves local children. Losing schools makes it all the more likely that these neighborhoods will deteriorate further.”

The Atlanta Journal – Constitution reported in 2010, “DeKalb County school officials decided Forrest Hills Elementary was too small to remain open, and neighbors say its closure has changed their community in palpable ways. Formerly active residents and many young parents have moved away. Community gatherings have grown smaller. The recession makes the impact on property values hard to determine, but many residents believe they’ve been damaged.”

Richard Layman, a Washington, DC urban/commercial district revitalization and transportation/mobility advocate, says, “Schools are fundamental anchors which build and maintain quality neighborhoods and communities. Therefore to maintain communities we need to maintain the schools located within them.”

Andy Smarick, a charter school advocate and author of “The Urban School System of the Future: Applying Principles and Lessons of Chartering”, says that closing neighborhood schools can have negative and unintended consequences, stating, “Even if it’s low-performing, at least it’s a stable institution and an indication that the government has at least some investment in that neighborhood.”

So, do we want a school district unwilling to invest in the welfare and future of the community? Faced with these questions, Edgewood residents have legitimate reasons for concern that have not been addressed by MESD. But having faced these questions before, they have proven their willingness and ability to rebuild their future, literally out of the very dirt beneath their feet.

How does that benefit MESD? The short answer is: it doesn’t.

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