First school just a memory now

It?s been a headline in recent weeks:?A central Kansas community will lose its last remaining school at the end of May. Anytime a school closes, it?s a sad reality, but in this case, it?s also personal.

I attended Marquette Elementary School from kindergarten through eighth grade?1988 to 1997?before attending Smoky Valley High School in Lindsborg.

I could share many memories about those years, but here are just a few:

In the ?good ?ole days,? kindergarteners still got daily snacks. My favorite job was carrying the red milk crate to the teacher workroom to collect milk for all of my classmates.

My first-grade teacher took on the task of monitoring the creation of green eggs in honor of Dr. Seuss. She watched patiently as each student attempted to crack his or her own egg…and then, though I don?t remember, she probably listened to multiple complaints about ?not liking green eggs and ham.?

(This assumption comes from listening to similar comments about my own cooking nearly every meal. Also no one can make you like green eggs and ham like Sam-I-Am.)

In fourth grade, a women?s community group came to school and baked bread with our class. Each lady was paired with a student and we made bread from scratch. We even got to take a whole loaf home to our families. I frequently remember this activity as I make bread for my own family, and especially love when my kids join me in the kitchen.

The popular recess game of choice for my fifth grade class was kick ball. During one particularly exciting match, I nailed an out-of-the-park kick and took off running, only to sail around first base and have the base slip out from under my feet on loose playground bark. Despite dripping blood and tears, I still made it to third base before the pain kicked in.

I ended up in the nurses? office, waiting for my mom to take me to the doctor. I still have an awesome dual scar on my left knee to prove my story.

As middle school years go, mine weren?t too bad. I enjoyed playing clarinet for longtime band director Mr. Holmquist. I got my first taste of competitive volleyball and track. I served as a page at the Capitol in Topeka.

I know fellow Marquette graduates can add many more memories to my own, and in that way, a great little school?recently named in the top 5 percent of Kansas grade schools?will continue.

The past few years have been tough on schools. Even as a senior in 2001, I remember debating possible school budget cuts in my government class. And it seems the financial hardships will be slow to improve.

Of course, I don?t have the answers. But Marquette may have a start. A year ago, when strong rumors of closure circulated the area, the community and beyond came together to raise more than $110,000 in less than two weeks. While the board of education didn?t accept the money, it was forced to recognize the abundance of support people showed for the school.

Despite the outpouring of support, the needed finances would have to be raised yearly to save the school, and this month the board voted 6-1 to close the doors of MES at the end of the year.

Smoky Valley isn?t the only school struggling. Hillsboro lost its 3A classification this year, and with it, has made tough decisions to cut multiple positions from the school, with more cuts needed.

While the vote didn?t go in Marquette?s favor this time, there is an important lesson we can learn?and it?s all about community involvement and support.

Our district made an important first step in organizing a community forum in December. While the public comments got off to a slow start, by the end, the questions were flowing. And that?s where involvement in our schools has to start?with knowledge.

It?s hard not to complain about high taxes and, most recently, increased utility rates. Family budgets struggle, too, and our school leaders are well-aware of that.

But I propose that school involvement can be more than money. Even when money is tight, knowledge is free. Ask questions. Read the school board reports in the Free Press. Go one step further and attend a board meeting. Become familiar with legislation.

And then, as a community, we can assist our schools in moving forward.

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