The circumstances of ordinary life have enabled me to live — for a time — in big cities, small towns, off the beaten path, and once in what felt like the middle of nowhere. The most traumatic experience was the move we made from a small town in Minnesota to Glen Burnie, Maryland. My stepfather had been transferred.
Sixteen at the time, and looking forward to my senior year of high school, I was devastated to learn of my stepfather’s transfer to Maryland. We had traveled from a suburb of Chicago to eventually settle in Brainerd, Minnesota, and eventually came to feel like natives of the small town. We walked to school, to the movies, to the lone pizza establishment, and to church.
My brother and I had friends and teachers we loved, and were involved in clubs and activities at school. But we were a few years shy of being able to forge our own way. Besides, we were a close family. Leaving was going to be painful, but the thought of living away from our parents, even for a short time, was painful, too.
Whether it’s a move of a short distance or a long distance, it’s not easy to leave places and familiar surroundings you love and change your routine. So I can sympathize with the rural community of Sabillasville, which has been fighting for years to save their elementary school (SES) from being closed.
My family’s future was determined by my parents’ decision to take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. SES’s future is vulnerable because of population declines and the costs of repairs and maintenance. It seems we always cut off our nose to spite our face. We don’t pay teachers enough, and now there’s a shortage of teachers. We want a good education for our kids, but we don’t want to spend the money to help schools with the small classes that often make it possible.
The years I spent in rural Minnesota are still some of my favorite memories. But rural life has taken a hit over the years. People are moving to the cities because they offer more jobs, better pay, more opportunity, and frankly more excitement. Yet while all that may be true, rural communities excel in other ways. The air is cleaner, and life is slower, calmer, and generally safer. Social distancing, the new health crisis recommendation, is easier, too.
Remarkably, SES is a five-star school. It is astounding, at least to me, that the Board of Education would consider closing a five-star school for any reason. Protect it, cherish it, learn from it, help it all you can. But let it stand as a beacon until its ending is from natural causes.
SES’s fate is in the hands of the Frederick County Board of Education. The Frederick News-Post reported on Feb. 26 that although the 2020-2021 school year is safe, a final decision on closing the school after that period will be made by the board in December 2020. If the decision is made to close SES, it won’t be for lack of opposition by the Sabillasville community.
The cooperation between the board and SES parents and the community, though, has been admirable. As always, nothing was lost by working together, and what was gained was time, time to explore possibilities and research options. Hope for SES’s continued existence remains.
A young girl who thought her life was over when she had to move across the country and finish her final year of high school in a strange new place made the best of it. She discovered new things, made new friends and became a useful adult simply by going where the twists and turns of life took her.
No matter what happens to SES, the activism of people in the community mattered. Should it come to pass that their efforts to save SES are not enough, their children will adjust and can still mold and shape a future that remains filled with promise. A strong community with determined people will always make the best of things.
I do understand the Board of Education’s monetary arguments for closing SES, but personally, I hope it votes to keep the jewel and enjoys the bragging rights of having it.
Patricia Weller writes from Emmitsburg. She can be reached at email@example.com.