Michael Bardsley Declares Candidacy for Mayor: Opposes School Closings

The Valley Advocate reported yesterday that At-Large City Councilor Michael Bardsley has officially declared his intention to run for mayor.

If elected, he said he plans to follow up on work done with the Ad-Hoc Best Practices Committee he had been a part of during the last year and conduct a thorough review of how city hall works using this new lens. He said he hopes to make changes in the way it interacts with constituents, and to promote more neighborhood representation in government by promoting neighborhood organizations that already exist and creating them where they don’t…

“The budget isn’t an issue we should only bring up every spring when we’re wondering how to pay for schools. All it does is put families in a panic, and it doesn’t offer a long-term solution,” he said. He vowed that he will work on such a long-term plan to keep all of Northampton schools open, and will not entertain school closure as an option. During his tenure on the Council, he said, he’s seen several schools close, and feels that any further closings would leave holes in those communities that would be a “huge loss” that he “staunchly opposes.”

See also:

Gazette: “Bardsley to challenge Higgins for Northampton mayor’s post” (4/3/09)

Springfield Republican: “Superintendent Isabelina Rodriguez temporarily drops proposal to close elementary school in Northampton” (4/3/09)
Rodriguez has estimated that closing an elementary school would save $320,000…

The prospect of a school closing has galvanized some school communities. Parents and administrators at the Robert K. Finn Ryan Road School have already met to discuss the possibility, and people have spoken out against school closings before the City Council…

…Rodriguez said Friday that revised enrollment projections show that four elementary schools might be needed after all.

“There’s a potential for growth,” she said, adding that some parents who send their children to private schools might be looking to save tuition expenses in the worsening economy. Private school enrollment in Northampton was down 20 students this year, she said.

Video: School Committee Meeting of February 12; Presentation of Strategic Plan
The committee estimates operational cost savings of $200,000 to $400,000 from closing an elementary school and lists some downsides. The following issues may merit deeper consideration, however:

The net savings from closing a school may be open to question. In “Dollars & Sense: The Cost Effectiveness of Small Schools”, the authors write:

Adding up the costs and weighing them against the benefits shows that small schools not only are better places in which to educate children, but that large schools themselves actually create significant diseconomies…
Best Practices Committee: Discussions, Recommendations, Videos and Pictures