The Carbon County School Board's decision last week to shut down East Carbon High after this year is one that has involved a great deal of controversy and emotion. Both sides of the issue had their strong points as to whether school in the Sunnyside facility should continue or not.
But now that the decision has been made, one thing is for sure. When it comes to a high school education in this area there will be little choice for residents other than to have their students attend Carbon High.
As with all educational institutions, Carbon High has its strong points as well as it's weak ones. I don't see that as a criticism of the school just as a reality that exists in any public school system. That means while the majority of students will be well-served by the lone 10-12 grade facility left in the county, there will be some that will not be.
At one time, in the 1960s through the mid-1970s, people in this area had the choice of three different high schools their kids could attend: Carbon, East Carbon and Notre Dame Catholic School, which had thriving high school experience at the time. Maybe in earlier days there were even more choices that I am not aware of, but that time period, in particular, gave everyone a chance to find a "different" kind of education, with different administrators, teachers and to a certain extent a different set of rules to follow and abide by for graduation.
My point is that there was a choice; something parents with high school age students in this community no longer have, unless they decide to homeschool their kids, and for most people that is not a realistic option.
In analyzing this situation I also don't want to forget the Lighthouse, which helps a lot of kids who are having a hard time getting through the program at Carbon. But for many, this may not be a viable choice either.
In the past few months the Utah State Board of Education decided not to allow the Pinnacle Canyon Charter School the right to have a high school curriculum added to their program. At the time this seemed a minor decision for many in the county because it did not affect them. But now, with this most recent decision concerning East Carbon, that determination might mean more than it would have.
Again, I don't contend this is a problem based anything the school board has done or what goes on at Carbon High. I know people on the school board as well as administrators at the district level and at the high school and know that all of them are working in the best interests of the kids that come through the system. They are almost to a person, caring and conscientious individuals.
This issue has to do with a "one size fits all" situation. We unfortunately don't have the luxury that those along the Wasatch Front do, where if our children are unhappy or things are not working out at one school they can attend another public school or even have the choice of a private education if we want to pay the additional for it.
I don't pretend to have an answer to this for an area where the student enrollment is declining, but the board has crossed the Rubicon on this one and to be sure all students needs are met will be a tough row to hoe.
And when it come to the issue of choice, well only time will tell if it truly becomes an issue or not.