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Editorial: School districts must downsize to cut costs

This January 2013 photo shows East Elementary School

This January 2013 photo shows East Elementary School in Long Beach. Photo Credit: Google Maps

It's understandable that the parents of students at Long Beach's East Elementary School don't want the school to close. Their opposition makes perfect sense to them.

So did the opposition of parents who recently fought the proposed closings of two elementary schools in the Half Hollow Hills district. So will the pleas of parents faced with other future closings as Long Island adjusts to lower enrollment.

But school experts say reducing the actual number of schools, rather than just laying off teachers or cutting programs, is where real savings come from. And savings are needed now and will be needed even more in the future as pension, salary and health care costs rise and the property tax cap limits revenue.

More than 350 parents showed up at a district meeting in Long Beach on Tuesday night, and most opposed the plan to close East Elementary. Parents don't want their children to have to travel farther to school, have their routines disrupted or endure a restructuring plan that would put siblings in separate schools.

Long Beach district enrollment has dropped from 4,200 10 years ago to 3,600 students today, about 15 percent. District officials say they have three options: repurpose East Elementary as an administrative building and reorganize the district, reorganize and keep East open, or change nothing.

Officials say the plan that will save the most money is the one that closes and repurposes the school. If that's the case, the school ought to be repurposed.

Fighting school closings makes sense to the parents and students who are emotionally involved, but closing the schools makes financial sense to the district and its taxpayers as a whole, which is the more important consideration.