EDITORIAL: A building battle

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It’s not our place to weigh in on the battle that’s brewing in the southeast corner of our county between the citizens of Burns and the Peabody-Burns Board of Education, otherwise known as USD 398. (See our report, Page 14.) The board voted last month not to replace the elementary school in Burns that was condemned by the state fire marshall in September. Instead, the board wants the 20 Burns students to be integrated in the elementary school the district operates in Peabody.



Burns, a community of around 270 people located less than a mile from the Butler County line, is fighting the good fight that countless small towns in Kansas fought-and lost-in the wake of the state mandate to consolidate school districts in the mid-1960s. This writer, himself an elementary-school student at the time, is old enough to remember the bitter winds that blew through USD 410 when schools in Durham and Lehigh were consolidated in Hillsboro. School buildings represent the heart of a small community and it was hard for Durham and Lehigh residents to see them close and eventually disappear. But full consolidation did happen and those communities have survived.



It’s tempting to counsel the good folks in Burns simply to accept what has been the difficult but inevitable outcome for so many other small communities. But they are right about at least one thing: This decision should be made following a long, careful look its the economic impact-not on emotion.



We’re too far away to know which way the issue should go, but we do believe the process of evaluation and communication is important, not only for the sake of the economic future of USD 398, important as it is, but for the sake of nurturing good will between these two communities-and for the sake of the children living within them. Not only do these kids need the best education tax dollars can buy, they also need to see modeled a positive process for resolving disagreements.

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