Oak Harbor School District officials seem determined to close Clover Valley Elementary School and their reasoning seems logical.
School district enrollment has been declining, by more than 700 students since the 1999-2000 school year. This has significantly impacted the school district’s budget as state school dollars are based on enrollment. Consequently, the school district is facing a $3.5 million budget deficit.
Estimates are that closing Clover Valley would save $546,000. The 315 students would be dispersed next year to the district’s five other elementary schools.
Don’t expect bulldozers to move in and level the building, however. The school district leases the land long-term from the Navy, and Clover Valley Elementary was remodeled just five years ago. The district could use the space for other needs. Ideas put forth so far include locating the homeschool outreach program there or perhaps making it the new home of the alternative high school.
Whatever is done with the building, in the community’s mind it will always be Clover Valley Elementary School. Its roots after all date back to the 19th century. The school board should keep in mind that the community would like it returned to elementary school use someday.
The present declining student population could be a temporary trend. True, the Navy base isn’t growing as it once was and civilians who need jobs aren’t looking in Oak Harbor for a home. Living wage jobs are scarce and the commute to the mainland is draining.
On the other hand, Oak Harbor is planned for significant growth and builders have no trouble selling all the new homes they’re constructing. Plans for improving the downtown, if implemented, will draw new residents, create new jobs and make it a more family-friendly city. And as the mainland gets ever more expensive and crowded, more people will move here just for some elbow room.
In a few years, the population of children in the area could well increase and with it the need for more classrooms. So whatever changes that take place now should be considered temporary as we’d all like the sounds of hundreds of children’s voices to once again resonate in Clover Valley.