Last week I attended the Pleasant Valley School District's public hearing concerning the closing of Eldred Elementary School in Kunkletown.
I listened to all the facts and figures the district presented. On paper, the school should be closed.
In my opinion, the district came into that public hearing with its mind already made up. The hearing was just a formality. I believe, Eldred will close.
If it does, Eldred Township will lose a little piece of its history. And its heart.
There has been a school in Eldred Township since the 1700s. My ancestor, Abraham Schmidt, donated the land for the first church, which also housed the first school. Six more one-room schools followed. In 1953, the township built a lovely school to consolidate all the township's elementary children from grades 1-8. It was added onto in 1975. It is this building that the district wants to close.
So, Eldred will lose a part of its history.
At the hearing last Thursday, one brave young girl, Maria Velopolcek, a 12-year-old former Eldred student, stated that she attended Eldred Elementary from K-fourth grade.
"The moment I entered Eldred, I wanted to stay forever. Eldred is an amazing school and cannot be compared to Polk, PVE, PVI or PVHS. It may be small, but it is perfect. To close it would be a huge mistake."
I know of what she speaks.
I walked through Eldred's doors for the first time when I was five years old in 1956 as a first grader. They didn't have Kindergarten then or daycares. Suddenly we wee ones were introduced to a new world and had to learn how to socialize with other kids. I was painfully shy and remember being very much afraid of this thing called "School."
I can only thank God that our first grade teacher was Emma Smith, who quickly became a surrogate mother, easing us into our school lives, away from the comfort and safety of our families.
What was great about Eldred in my day was having each teacher for two grades.
Mrs. Smith taught us in first and second grade and brought music into our lives.
We had Constance Andrews for third and fourth grades. She introduced to us creativity and the arts in fun and amazing ways.
Howard Borger, a strict disciplinarian and great historian, taught fifth and sixth grades.
Seventh and eighth grade teacher Lloyd Borger mixed story telling in with reading, writing and arithmetic.
You've often heard me say that I believe I had an idyllic childhood. A good part of that reason is because of my days at Eldred. We truly were a family. It was like that television show, "Cheers," a place to go where everyone knows your name. We were small enough that we knew all the kids. There was great comfort and security in that.
We developed bonds because we were small enough to live as an extended family.
Some of my best friends today are my friends and classmates from Eldred.
Bigger isn't always better.
When the new Pleasant Valley Elementary School was built, I remember feeling sorry for all the children that had to go there. It is so huge that I'm sure to a five-year-old, it must be the scariest and most intimidating place. (As an adult, when I visit, it is scary and intimidating.) Yes, I'm sure they adjust. But I feel bad that they're missing out on what I, and all the Kunkletown children since have had the Eldred Experience.
You're right. This is an emotional and sentimental response to the idea of Eldred closing.
School boards, state and federal governments do not make decisions on emotions. Or on what their constituents truly want. But maybe they should. Unfortunately, the only thing they respond to is money. I get it.
But I don't have to agree with it. I still have the right to express my opinion. And in my opinion, closing Eldred is wrong for the residents and children of Eldred. Sadly, it seems the route America is taking today, it's the little guy, the little business, the little school, the little town, that keeps losing.
It breaks my heart. And I believe the "bigger the better" mentality is taking the heart out of who we are.
In the book, "The Story of Kunkletown" by the Rev. Perry L. Smith, D.D., he used a quote attributed to the people responsible for organizing schools to educate the settlers of the area in the 1700s: "And for this benevolent purpose, they did further agree to offer schoolhouses in which their children might be instructed together, as dear fellow Christians, redeemed by the same common Lord and Saviour, and traveling to the same heavenly country, through this valley of tears, not withstanding, they may sometimes take roads a little different in points of smaller moment."
Pleasant Valley School Board-you say you looked at all possible ways to keep Eldred open. All those who love Eldred ask you to consider taking a road a little different, because to us, this small moment is really monumental.