Westlake Schools' 4-to-1 consolidation is a bad idea
Westlake’s proposed 4-to-1 school consolidation plan is a mistake. My wife and I moved our family to Westlake this past January and chose our neighborhood based on its proximity to a local neighborhood school. My strong suspicion is that many young families move to specific parts of Westlake for the same reason.
Smaller neighborhood schools provide close-knit, nurturing environments that foster confidence and critical relationships between students, educators and staff. In many ways, neighborhood schools mimic small, private school environments; and enjoy the advantages of such schools. Centralized mega-schools, on the other hand, often resemble cold, disconnected learning factories.
The administrative trend of “right-sizing” (school closure and consolidation to increase efficiency and decrease expenditures) appears to underlie this proposal. Right-sizing is often undertaken by large, financially desperate, urban school districts – Chicago, New Orleans, Memphis, etc. – and is triggered by decreasing enrollment and economic hardship, i.e., The Great Recession.
It’s puzzling then that Westlake Schools – a relatively affluent, suburban district – is headed in this direction. Is our community truly in such dire straits that, in this improved economic environment, we need to close four schools?
Over the last century, public education has fallen victim to many fads: open classrooms, whole reading, learning styles, etc. The fad of right-sizing is one that the Westlake community should consider very carefully. The consequences of this potential mistake would be grave: the loss of four elementary schools that are bedrocks to their respective neighborhoods; the loss of small, nurturing learning environments for the district’s most vulnerable and impressionable students; and the loss of existing young families, as well as those considering moving to Westlake.
Right-sizing Westlake’s four elementary schools would be irreversible – there is little reason at this time and in this community to take such a drastic risk.