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Deborah Frederickson, Fargo, Published April 05 2013

Letter: Fargo neighborhood schools are lifeblood of community

When we consider the importance of a neighborhood elementary school, obviously we think of its educational function. However, there is a relatively short window of time in our lives when we may have children in elementary schools, if at all. What about the rest of the residents in a neighborhood? Should they have an interest in the retention of a longstanding neighborhood elementary school? The answer is a definite yes.

From an economic perspective, their home’s value is often enhanced by a neighborhood school’s presence. Buyers, most notably parents of young children, often look for homes near neighborhood schools. For many, a home is their largest investment; a neighborhood school’s presence may aid in keeping that investment stable.

In my own neighborhood, we’ve had an elementary school named Hawthorne continuously since 1892; the current Hawthorne’s predecessor (old Hawthorne) was demolished. Families may move here because of school proximity, and neighborhood regeneration occurs when young families move in. We need this attraction of a neighborhood school to continue the cycle, thereby keeping the neighborhood vibrant, stable and healthy.

Neighborhood schools are sources of important social and economic influence, not merely for the obvious task of education but in attracting new homeowners, encouraging a social outlet at our popular playground, forging a strong neighborhood identity and providing a meeting place for activities, both school and nonschool alike. Also children can more easily bike or walk to school, and parents may find it more convenient to participate in school functions.

In short, our neighborhood schools are the lifeblood of the communities.

As a member of the Alliance for Neighborhood Schools, I have a concern for all the schools featured recently in the news.

Oftentimes, school costs are calculated only in terms of the bricks and mortar and other more “tangible” costs. However, the advantages of having a neighborhood school, such as those mentioned above, are perhaps not as easy to assign a dollar amount but, nonetheless, are valuable and often may be left out of the equation.

I encourage our Fargo School Board and those charged with the long-range facilities planning to embrace the broader scope, making certain they look at the big picture of benefits brought to a neighborhood by the smaller neighborhood elementary schools.