Pike off District 11 chopping block – at least till November
It may just be temporary, but for now Pike Elementary is off the District 11 school-closure list.
The D-11 Board of Education voted without dissent May 7 to put off any closures until Nov. 12, at which time its administrative staff is to present a “comprehensive plan” containing consistent guidelines on how to determine future closures.
“I am pleased that the district is trying to make a really difficult decision in a really prudent way,” Pike Principal Manuel Ramsey said after the vote. “The board members want to be careful and I respect that. In the meantime, we will continue to provide an A+ education for every student who walks through our doors.”
Ramsey paused and then added, “I'm hoping that when the district looks at all the data and info, maybe Pike isn't the school they want to close.”
The vote was in keeping with requests for decision delays from three Pike supporters - Alice Arment, Welling Clark and Sarah Gaylord - who spoke up during the “Citizens' Comments” portion of the meeting.
“You're going to lose a lot of people in the neighborhood with the change,” Gaylord cautioned the board in her comments.
Located at 2510 N. Chestnut, Pike has been the neighborhood elementary for the Mesa Springs area (about 750 homes) since it opened with the help of a speech from a descendant of explorer Zebulon Pike (the school's namesake) in 1956.
Worried about dropping enrollment in the district and needing a new home for the Bijou alternative high school, district administrators a month ago had proposed closing Pike and bussing its students to Jackson, Bristol or Howbert. The argument was that Pike, the smallest school in the district at about 125 students, is uneconomical at that size.
However, supporters have pointed to school academic advances led by Ramsey and his staff, and also questioned the wisdom of closing a school which is already at 100 percent capacity when new homes (meaning more future students) are being built in the neighborhood. Several parents have described situations in which their children have thrived in a smaller-school atmosphere where they get more individual attention, while neighborhood leaders have predicted dire cultural changes resulting from Pike being replaced by an alternative high school.
Also avoiding closure (temporarily) in the board's vote was Longfellow Elementary, located just east of downtown, which had been picked out mainly because of low enrollment (only 40 percent of capacity).
School board members clearly were happy with not having to make a ruling at this time.
“This [having a comprehensive plan] is the ideal way to go,” Charles Bobbitt said. “This way, everyone will understand the way we're going.”
“I couldn't come to terms with closing Pike and Longfellow in a vacuum,” Sandra Mann said. “Maybe when we come back with the comprehensive plan we will still have to close them, but at least it won't be like picking two schools out of a hat.”
Another element of the decision is that the closure issue will be on the board agenda monthly between now and November, allowing progress reports from Superintendent Terry Bishop and his staff.
“I think it's a great compromise,” said Board President Tami Hasling. “We're doing the right thing.”
Westside Pioneer article