Thursday, July 16, 2009

Foothills Sentry Coverage Continues

In the July issue of the Foothills Sentry's Canyon Beat column, Linda May celebrates the new Santiago Canyon bridge - and Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich write about Silverado Elementary School.


Meanwhile, down the road from the new bridge, a sad example perhaps of what happens when the community is disenfranchised and ignored, offers itself in the now-abandoned and empty historic elementary school. Silverado Elementary, which served the children of the canyon for over a century, held its final class session on Thursday June 11 and was formally shuttered the following week on Friday June 19, this the result of the OUSD board vote two months ago.

Reports indicate that about half the canyon's K-6 children will be enrolled in the fall at Chapman Hills Elementary, their parents opting for the long bus ride or providing their own transportation. Understandably, residents continue to express concern about the duration of the bus ride and its impact on their kids' education and health. A 6:30 am pick-up is scheduled for the children of Modjeska Canyon. Parents point out that this requires a 5-5:30 AM wake-up call for the youngest of them – and a school day (including transportation) that approaches 9 hours. Many children have been enrolled at Trabuco Elementary School in nearby Saddleback Valley Unified District while others have embraced other options, including homeschooling and private schools.

But in the wake of the vote, efforts to challenge the vote, the school's closure and transfer of students, many parents express disappointment at the failure of district representatives, including board members, to bother to show up on the last day of classes or to otherwise acknowledge the tragedy of closing the campus, arguably the heart of the canyon community. Further, the apparent failure of district managers to develop a plan for the closing struck many as problematic, especially in light of the seemingly disorganized or unsupervised closing process.

Sure, the joyful end of the normal school year is always tinged with sadness but the sight of classrooms packed up and cleared out for good was chilling. The staff and heroic soon to be former teachers of the small school could be seen working beyond the call of duty but community members wondered indeed where the on-the-ground physical services support from the district was. The task of dismantling a school is enormous and district services and support staff didn't seem in evidence. One of the perhaps best, if easiest

The best evidence of their absence was what was found in the overflowing single recycling dumpster and the two trash dumpsters: books. A picture tells a thousand words, but in this case the single word seemed to be "waste."

So, diving in where the district would not, some concerned parents and children spent a recent morning in the school parking lot "dumpster diving," rescuing furniture, art supplies, bulletin boards, workbooks and, yes, hundreds of books --- hardbacks, textbooks, art books, readers and paperbacks --- sorting through and arranging them in boxes. The salvaged treasure was driven to Santa Ana where volunteers in a tutoring program were grateful to receive it.

A blog post at meant to call attention to the failure of administrative planning at the district level seems to have brought unwarranted scrutiny on school staff, with still no acknowledgement of the problem or any effort to address it.

Activist parents and community members say they are grieved by the sight of the empty school, whose community garden is abloom in sunflowers. They say they are still working on creating a future for the school within OUSD or without it.

Consider writing letters to the Sentry to keep this issue before the public.

To read the Canyon Beat column in its entirety, pick up a copy or visit their website:

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