Moline-Coal Valley school board president Connie McElyea said the board's 5-2 vote Monday to close Ericsson and Garfield elementary schools was a "very tough, very emotional decision."

But one volunteer in Moline's Floreciente neighborhood who was among dozens of people who attended Monday's meeting to oppose the closings, disagreed.

"Our questions were not emotional," said Araieli Masterson-Algar. "They are reasonable, genuine concerns."

Masterson-Algar was among several people who spoke before the board voted to close the schools at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Many of the students from Ericsson will go to Lincoln-Irving Elementary, and many of the Garfield students will be sent to Hamilton Elementary, which will be expanded to accommodate them.

Both before and after the meeting, dozens of people stood outside Wilson Middle School, where the meeting was held, holding signs imploring board members to keep the schools open.

Masterson-Algar told board members the plan did not include any planning for infrastructure improvements to control traffic around the expanded Hamilton, which would have about 600 students.

That concern was echoed by board member Robert Tallitsch, who said he was concerned about the "unknowns" in the plan, and said the board should explore expanding Ericsson rather than closing it.

Several speakers voiced concerns about the impact closing Ericsson would have on the predominantly Hispanic Floreciente neighborhood.

Christopher Whitt, an assistant professor of political science at Augustana College in Rock Island, said closing Ericsson would have a destabilizing impact on the neighborhood, which he said was already "on the brink financially."

"Without that institution, I don't see how we can expect this neighborhood to thrive," Whitt said.

Board member Ben McAdams agreed, saying he didn't think the board knew better what was best for the Floreciente neighborhood than the people who live there.

McAdams said while the plans calls for turning the Ericsson building into a community center, there are no guarantees that will happen.

"Ericsson School is already a community center, so why change it?" he asked.

McAdams and Tallitsch cast the sole "no" votes against the closings.

Former Garfield student Rob Moon said closing the schools "truly puts our children at risk," and said there had to be a better way.

While McAdams said he believed the decision had been rushed, board member Cecilia O'Brien said that wasn't the case.

"This is not a surprise," she said. "We've been talking about this for a long time."

O'Brien said she thought closing the schools was what was best for the entire district.

After the meeting, Superintendent David Moyer said the district will form committees to aid in the transition for families in both neighborhoods, and he was hopeful that the residents would become more comfortable with the decision as the transition process moves along.

Greg Aguilar, a community member and representative of the Greater Quad-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said after the meeting he believed the Floreciente neighborhood would get involved because residents are organized and work together for the benefit of their children.

"We have to," he said. "It's still the education of our students."

 

(3) comments

gdcitizen61
gdcitizen61

My daughter was fortunate to attend Garfield School from K through 6th grade and I served as a school nurse @ both Garfield and Ericsson. What a loss to the community abd the educational system. Ben McAdams (my former supervisor) and Robert Tallitsch(the best AMP instructor a nurse could have but did not know it @ the time) are right to voice concerns. This is not progress but regression in the QC educational system.

Bobaloo

First, I am truly sorry that things came to this point and that two schools are closing. Before I continue, I'd say nobody wants to make these difficult decisions and uproot families that have attended a successful school. I hope the transition is successful.

That said, at least THIS school board was courageous enough to look at facts and consider everything before rendering what is surely an unpopular decision. The big question to me is, "Will it be better in the long run" to go with the new setup described in this article? Five were able to answer with a yes, and my hat's off to both them (individually and as a group) and the two who disagreed.

I just wish the North Scott School Board was more courageous in considering the future of its schools, but instead, they go with emotion alone and ignore two demographic studies that show that growth in the western part of that district is simply not happening. (I might add, nowhere in either one of those studies did it say "close a school.") But they're so emotional right now ... .

pta mom

This is a shame.

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