What happens to a small town when the school closes?

Last week Smith-Green Community Schools presented shocking numbers to its residents that show the school will either need financial support from the community, or the future of the district, and the Churubusco community as a whole, is in jeopardy.

We know the last thing Superintendent Dan Hile and the school board want to see is consolidation of SGCS – that’s a last resort. But, if funding doesn’t see some drastic changes in 2018, the end of Smith-Green Community Schools and what the Churubusco community holds near and dear to its heart may be inevitable.

One way or another, the community is going to pay.

We strongly encourage all taxpayers in Smith and Green townships to consider the potential referendum the school board will propose for next year’s primary election. Whether or not you have children or grandchildren who are enrolled at SGCS, the impact of not funding a referendum will extend throughout the Churubusco area.

If the referendum isn’t supported, Smith-Green won’t close in 2018, but it would set in motion a domino of events that would transform the schools.

First to come would be drastic cuts. Then, more drastic cuts. Followed by more. Several years of six-figure cuts would be needed to keep the doors open.

What would be cut? Programs and staff — everything that makes SGCS an appealing school district. Then what? The 170-plus students who don’t live in the SGCS district would no longer find Churubusco appealing. Some young families may choose to move elsewhere, particularly to neighboring communities that have school districts with a lot to offer.

The already declining enrollment would plummet, and, we fear Smith-Green would have no choice but to consolidate, most likely with Whitley County Consolidated Schools and Central and East Noble.

The loss of the school district would put the entire town into a tailspin. Everything everyone has worked so hard to build — a growing downtown, a new playground at the park, fresh sidewalks — wouldn’t be used to the fullest potential.

Not only does a town with no school fail to bring in new, young families, it loses one of its main attractions for community interaction.

We couldn’t imagine a Friday night in the fall without Churubusco football or a nonexistent New Era show choir. The high school building is host to events all year round, even those not related to the school, such as the Churubusco Rotary auction and various fundraisers.

Smith-Green is not the only rural district struggling with funding. Look to the other side of the county, where Whitko schools may also face some difficult decisions in 2018.

We hope the community will support the district in improving the financial situation but, ultimately, we hope the state legislature will take a hard look at educational funding and how the current system hurts more rural schools.

Schools are the heart of small town communities.

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