I attended last nights meetings about Helper Junior High. We were repeatedly assured that the committee was not there to close to the school, rather just to advise the school board about the future of the school. I listened to the presentation and still have some questions for the committee and the Carbon County School Board:
What exactly is this committee supposed to be working on?
Why were they assembled in the first place?
What was their goal or purpose?
Was it to cut costs across the school district?
Was it because the smaller schools like Helper and East Carbon are facing declining enrollments?
Was it because the State of Utah has set the optimum ratio of student to teacher at 23? (Helper 18.1, Mont Harmon 21.5 for 2003)
If it is about the money, Helper Junior High had a loss of $70,000 last year, but Mont Harmon ran $170,000 in the hole.
If it is about lower test scores, I looked at the SAT scores for both schools. Helper had 43 in Language Arts to Mont Harmon's 37, Helper had 39 in Math to Mont Harmon's 45, and Helper had 43 in Reading to Mont Harmon's 41. These are all the 2003 numbers and at both schools the scores across the board went down from 2002. You can't promise anyone that the scores will go up with a school merger.
If it's just the declining population, how did they get these numbers? There are currently 110 students at Sally Mauro in kindergarden, first and second grade. The estimates the committee showed 113 students at HJH for the 2010 year. Well, these 110 will be the school population in 2012 plus the kids from the charter school if they don't add a high school, about 10 to 15. So, I came up with 120 to 125 2012.
If it is really about class size, someone at the state passed math, but failed their logic class. If someone at the state level is telling schools to have 23 students to teacher or you are wasting money, get me their names. Everywhere else they are trying to lower class size; they are trying to decrease the area that schools serve and create more neighborhood schools. But apparently not here.
If the school board is serious about closing Helper Junior High and East Carbon High School, I'd like to point out that you will not be saving any money. You will be seriously increasing the school population at Mont Harmon and Carbon High School, and the parents of those students will not appreciate the increased class size. You will be forcing more parents to select the Charter School. You will be killing the cities of Helper and East Carbon.
There were a number of excellent suggestions at the Helper meeting; redistricting for more students; stressing school choice to the parents in Price and the quality of the Helper Junior High and Sally Mauro (rated number one grade school in Utah in 2000); and finding out why parents all over Carbon County are selecting the Charter school over their neighborhood schools.
Please give these schools a chance. Carbon County is making a come back economically and with that comes an increase in population. Perhaps the situation is not as dire as the school board has predicted. Please give the parents and students of these schools a chance to improve before you shut the place down and bus our kids down Highway 6.