A little over a month ago, on Inauguration Day, the Pioneer featured “We the People,” a story of the hopes and commitments of seven Bemidjians as they related to the future of our country and the betterment of our community. These individuals spoke of the common good, of love and compassion, and of service. I thank them for their sentiments and the Pioneer for the story.

May I suggest that for those of us who share these beliefs, now is the time to stand up in support of Central Elementary.

Central sits at the heart of our community, in our most historic and diverse neighborhood. Its families are among the region’s most transient and most vulnerable. They have come for safe harbor, for support and encouragement. And now we want to close their school?

Wouldn’t a more just approach be to trim budgets from across the district, just as the drop in enrollment has impacted all of our schools?

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We all need community: a church or a school, a club, someplace where we feel connected. Many years ago, as an educator, I learned of the good things happening at Central, of their efforts to build connections and promote learning. I introduced myself to a staff member the other day and listened. Within a minute, I could tell that this enthusiasm and commitment continues today.

What happens when we close a school? We send the kids to a bigger school and then look for ways to divide the new building in an effort to create the sense of community that existed before we moved them. It’s no accident that Superintendent Tim Lutz spoke of moving Central’s students to other neighborhood schools. But the truth is, there’s no school in the district with as much of a sense of neighborhood as Central.

And Mr. Lutz, we can grow that school tomorrow by nearly a third. Simply return the fourth and fifth grade students that were removed a few years back.

We are only as strong as the least among us. For the common good, for love and compassion, and in the name of service, I urge you to work to save Central Elementary.

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