Ericsson Elementary School

Kindergarteners complete an activity during class at Ericsson Elementary School in Moline. Ericsson and Garfield elementary schools will be closed after the 2014-15 school year, according  to a plan approved Monday by the Moline-Coal Valley School Board.


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."