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Forest Park Shutdown: The Student’s Voice

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Back in November, the Board of Education made a unanimous decision to close two schools in the Half Hollow Hills Central School District. After much debate, the two schools agreed to be closed were announced: Forest Park and Chestnut Hill Elementary School. The decision to close Forest Park hits home, as many Hills West students formerly graduated from this now closing school. These students have spent much of our childhood there and remember fond memories of their first experience at school and making friendships that last to this day.

Photo Credit: www.halfhollowhills.k12.ny.us
Photo Credit: www.halfhollowhills.k12.ny.us

Many wonder why these two elementary schools are shutting down. Statistics show enrollment rate dropped around 25 percent, one of the worst enrollment decreases on Long Island which as a whole has seen a sharp decline in elementary school enrollment. The board of eduction decided last year that two schools would have to close, and offered a commissioned group of parents and local residents the option of closing Vanderbilt or Forest Park and Signal Hill or Chestnut Hill. The group chose the later of each option.

Many alumni of Forest Park are upset over the decision to close a school. Sophomore Christian Tirone voiced his displeasure with the change for the 2014 school year, “I had a fantastic experience at Forest Park, and all my teachers were extraordinary. The fact they would close a blue ribbon school upsets me deeply.” Tirone’s voice of disappointment is shared by many graduates of Forest Park as well. Forest Park was awarded with the blue ribbon in 2011, the top national award for elementary schools.

There are many arguments for and against the consolidation. A positive aspect of the shutdown is that it allows for more money to be spent among the smaller group of schools, and essentially, more money on students rather than buildings. The shutdown may be detrimental to students in upper grades (3rd to 5th) as they will be moved to another school with new kids that they have yet to meet. Another negative effect from the loss of two schools in the district is that the class size will increase a sizable amount, and many hard-working teachers may lose their jobs. In addition, once the two schools are closed, they may or may not be rented out. If they are, they may not be able to recover the building should enrollment rise in future years.

All in all, the shutdown of Forest Park and Chestnut Hill has the possibility of having many negative effects on the district, but the three million dollars saved certainly speaks in favor of shuttering the two schools. Whether or not you support the closing of schools in this district, it can not be denied that the buildings in question, especially Forest Park, hold a special place all those who graduated there. The brick and mortar that built these schools many decades ago will be put to rest in 2014, but it has cultivated thousands of students, who will keep it open in their memories.