Parents and teachers of Reid Elementary School spoke in front of the Cheney School Board last week regarding the school’s closure in June.
“Our goal here is to listen to you,” said Kerry O’Connor, president of the board.
The school has been a cooperative effort between Cheney Public Schools and Eastern Washington University. The district provides the teachers, curriculum, textbooks and computers, while the university provides the building, maintenance and janitors.
But the building, which was built in 1958, is aging. The HVAC system is failing – it would cost around $3.5 million for a new one – and efforts to modernize the building would be expensive as well.
Two years ago, the district and university almost closed the school, but a memorandum of understanding between the two kept Reid open for another two years – a contract that will expire this year.
The university asked the district for $150,000 a year to keep the school open for another two years – a price the district felt was too high, especially in tough economic times.
“It’s never easy if we’re faced with this kind of decision,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor also said that since the district doesn’t own the building, it can’t make the improvements needed.
“If we had, it would have already seen modernization,” he said.
Leslie Cicero, a kindergarten teacher at Reid for 23 years, spoke to the board about her time at Reid and why she thought the school is a special place.
“This has been a real grieving process the last few weeks for us,” Cicero told the board.
She compared the last 23 years to the movie the “Wizard of Oz,” traveling along the Yellow Brick Road and meeting special people along the way. She listed many education students from EWU and even the Cheney schools who learned how to teach at Reid and went on to careers in Cheney Public Schools. There were professors from Eastern who collaborated in the teaching and learning process and those who helped the school along the way.
She mentioned Robert Reid, a science professor who taught at Eastern and for whom the school is named.
Cicero said the school offered her and other teachers the opportunity to train future teachers and eventually impact future students from throughout the region.
She also mentioned Shannon Lawson, the current principal and administrative coordinator at Reid.
“We thank you for your leadership,” Cicero said.
She said that the main characters of her trip down the Yellow Brick Road included the staff at Reid, all of whom demonstrated intellect, courage and heart.
“Please do not forget Reid students as they venture into the Cheney School District,” Cicero told the board. “There is no place like Reid.”
After Cicero spoke to the board, many parents and teachers passed a box of tissues through the crowd, many of them crying openly at the thought of losing their school.
One parent mentioned to the board that by all accounts, Cheney and the district are growing. She questioned whether shutting down the school would be a good idea when the other schools are full.
O’Connor agreed that the district is growing and new portable classrooms will be set up at many schools in the coming years. The district will also be putting a bond issue up before voters in the next couple of years to help build new schools in the district.
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