I am writing in regards to Sorento Elementary School.
During the past 21 months, COVID has shown us all the importance of smaller schools. We need places that are less congregated and consolidation is not something positive. Smaller is better, and things need to be closer to home. As people continue to leave cities and larger population centers, they will want to move to places that have several schools spread out throughout the district to serve all students.
In terms of economics, the closure of Sorento Elementary School will not only affect the community of Sorento, but will have serious economic repercussions throughout Bond County. Henry David Thoreau said that, “No man is an island entirely of itself. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,” and Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The repercussions of the closure of Sorento Elementary School will be felt throughout every area of Bond County, not just Sorento. This negative fallout will last not for just a few years or decades, but for generations.
The closure of Sorento Elementary School will have severe and long lasting emotional and psychological impact upon the students that attend there. Living the past 21 months under the pressures of COVID and all the regulations, mandates, and rules have already been a huge burden upon these children. Now they are faced with the closure of the school they attend–the school in the community in which they live. Children as young as three years old will be faced with having to endure one-way bus rides of over an hour or more in length if Sorento Elementary School is closed. This should not happen in a county the size of Bond County.
Superintendent Wes Olson has repeatedly stated and has been adamant that finances are not the reason for the possible closure. He has stated that the district is in good shape financially. The condition of the school building is not the issue either as the building is one of the better buildings in the district.
In terms of academics, students at Sorento School continue to perform well academically and the Sorento Elementary School remains the only Blue Ribbon School in this part of Illinois. Other school districts would be heralding the successes of the school and using it as a way to focus on what can be achieved in Bond County. Bond County Community Unit #2 seems not only intent on ignoring that success, but eliminating it altogether.
There are other alternatives. There are other options. There is more that can be done.
The closure of any school is not something to be handled lightly and should only be done as a last result. The decision to do so is not one made in a short time. It is something that takes place over several years. All other options are considered and it is only done out of necessity. That is not the case here.
It seems education is no longer about the students.
Tom Varner, Sorento
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