Moline School Board Votes to Close Two Elementary Schools - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Moline School Board Votes to Close Two Elementary Schools

Updated: May 13, 2013 10:27 PM CDT
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The Moline School Board voted in favor of closing Ericsson and Garfield Elementary schools as part of a broader district operational plan approved Monday night.

Not surprisingly, many community members are not happy with that decision.

It's been an emotional issue from the start for community members in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools.

More than 100 people showed up to Monday night's meeting, with about twenty of them speaking out against the proposed closures.

Overwhelmingly, the message was one of caution - urging board members to consider the potential negative impacts on the surrounding communities. The Rock Island Chapter of the NAACP also joined that conversation, calling it a civil rights issue, especially as it relates to equal access.

Several school board members who spoke during the meeting said it was a very difficult choice to make. But, they said, they had to vote for what was best for the entire district.

The district operational plan they approved is meant to save the district about $2.3 Million in operational costs.

Two school board members voted against that plan, one citing 'too many unknowns', the other citing arguments from community members and even a state representative against the possible consequences the closures could bring about.

Many community members we spoke to after the vote said they were disappointed with the board's ultimate decision.

"I was rooting for Ericsson to stay open. I mean it's a great school and it's the heart of the community," said Antonio Varela, an Ericsson Elementary School alumni. "To me it was more than a school, it was a second home."

"I'm very, very devastated at what happened - this decision tonight," agreed his fellow Ericsson Elementary School alum, Laura Nunez. She pointed to transportation as her biggest concern.

"I thought they just went through it too fast," added George Barajas, who owns a business in the Floriciente neighborhood.

"It's going to destroy the heart of their community and it's going to raise a lot of issues and a lot of problems," the Greater Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce's Greg Aguilar told us.

Aguilar added that he was proud of the community effort to stop the closures, despite the board's decision:

"They've learned how to organize their community and they've learned how to come together to fight for a cause that they believe in, and no matter how the Board of Education votes tonight, no one can ever take that away from them," he said.

Superintendent Dr. David Moyer said the community's concerns will be taken into account as the district moves forward in the process to implement the new operational plan.

"I think that people will start to feel comfortable as we move through the process and be excited about the benefits that they will experience with their children," Dr. Moyer said.

"And some of that won't happen until they start experiencing them," he added.

Dr. Moyer said the planning process will begin first thing Tuesday morning, as the district begins sorting out all the details of the upcoming transition.

The schools are not slated to close for another two years.

Also included in the operational plan approved Monday night was a $16 million construction project to expand and reconfigure Hamilton Elementary School. That project is expected to be completed by the 2015-2016 school year.

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