This year the City of Melrose and the Melrose Public Schools are facing a financial crisis. A downturn in revenues, unprecedented rise in health insurance, cuts in state aid and other factors have produced a grim picture of what services the City will be able to provide. The School Committee has to make cuts in educational programs to total approximately $1.8 million. These cuts involve many hard decisions about reductions in academic programs, teachers, arts, athletics, and other activities for students that make a full educational experience.
One of the first victims of this difficult budget year is the Ripley School. The Ripley School is the anchor of its neighborhood, providing the small class sizes and individual attention that is the hallmark of the neighborhood school concept. The Ripley School serves just under 100 children, and while its small size made it cherished, it also made it the subject to criticism for higher than average per pupil costs and by those who believe the single unit school is an outmoded educational model.
The School Committee decided in April to change the Ripley School from an elementary school to an early learning center. It is anticipated that this decision will save approximately $200,000. The decision to not have the Ripley School as an elementary school was a very difficult one for the School Committee to make. Ripley parents worked with the School Committee for over a year to examine ways to save their school and have been tireless advocates. Unfortunately, as the school budget crisis increased in severity, the School Committee ultimately voted 8 to 1 to convert the school.
Most difficult of all is that the Ripley School is only the beginning of the difficult budget decisions. None of the options for reducing costs is good for the school district, the students, and the City of Melrose. That is why the School Committee in conjunction with many active citizens and elected officials are urging everyone to support the schools whether through donations to the Save Our School Funds, writing your elected officials, promoting an override, or volunteering in the schools. Whatever you can contribute can help protect and restore our school system and keep Melrose's proud history of educational excellence alive. The schools are the heart of the community; they not only provide an education for today's students, our future leaders and productive citizens, but public schools symbolize the best of our democracy and hope for the future.
May 3, 2002