Families lined up to wait fifteen minutes or more for spaghetti served from a large aluminum tin, salad and a choice of lemonade or iced tea. Outside, the California rain had finally let up, leaving only the tree limbs dripping on the sidewalks and the sound of slick tires rolling as cars passed by. The large multipurpose room at Emblem Elementary School was packed on a Friday night; a night that many believed may be one of the last family functions the school would hold in a long, long time.
As parents squeezed into seats at the same cafeteria roll out tables their children ate lunch at during the day and school kids chased each other around the room, dodging people buying raffle tickets or baked goods, the questions on everyone’s mind was, “could the school be saved?” The state of California’s cuts in education spending continued to affect even the best school districts, like Saugus, where my children go to school. You hear politicians deliver speeches about closing schools with poor performance records, yet you never hear them speak about situations like in our hometown, where two quality schools will have to close their doors by the end of this school year.
We found out on Tuesday night that Emblem, the school that greets you as you enter our neighborhood, will be one of those schools.
When we moved into our house back in 2001, one of the things that excited us was having a California Blue Ribbon School right down the street. We looked forward to walking the kids to school in the morning, and being there to greet them at the end of the day for a stroll home together. The moment Sophie started at Emblem, we realized that it wasn’t just a building where our children went away to for 6-7 hours a day, it was actually a community of parents, teachers and students, a tight knit community, at that. As the years went by, you came to know everyone on a first name basis, watching with pride as the children matured into good, responsible boys and girls. Last December I sat at an honors assembly and smiled in awe at how many of the children I’d watched grow up along with Sophie had become nice kids.
This isn’t the first time the students at Emblem have had to move to another school. Just four years ago it closed for renovations, reopening a year later just as Jacob entered kindergarten. But this isn’t like that time; although the school board has bids out for more renovations to Emblem we’re unsure when they will take place. Furthermore, everyone I know is infuriated that at a time when the school board insists it must close schools to save costs, it is opening a brand new elementary school in the fall. There are so many emotions I am feeling right now. Anger, sadness, bitterness and depression. It’s not just that our children will have to be driven across town in the fall (school bus transportation was cut last year); it’s that we know so many of the teachers and support staff at Emblem and we fear that some of them will lose their jobs. Julie has dedicated the past three years to PTA; many of these teachers are good friends.
I realize that many of you have been through this experience and that it may sound like I’m whining. I know that the Emblem families will survive; we will all move forward. The bitterness, the anger, and eventually the sadness will pass (although, driving past a vacant school on the way home each night won’t help). The children will adapt and I’m hopeful that everything will be fine. But today, thinking that far in the future doesn’t interest me. Today I don’t have a song in my heart; I don’t have a story to tell about how a certain work of music fell into the soundtrack of my life. Today I want to reflect on the past few years and wonder how to make the best of the next five months.