In Defense of Newark Neighborhood Schools
Although the trend in America is that “bigger is better”, studies show that small neighborhood schools are better for children and communities. Keeping the schools in Newark open and running well is vital. Voting YES on Measure G will help this happen.
Research has shown that schools with small enrollments have higher achievement and graduation rates, higher satisfaction among students and teachers, and less discipline problems. There can be negative effects when children have to switch schools. A transition to a new school disrupts students’ relationships with teachers and new relationships tend to be weaker than those they had experienced at the closed schools. One study found that students who changed schools even one time were more than twice as likely to not graduate high school as students who didn’t switch schools.
Children who live near their school can walk or bicycle to school, and can use playgrounds when school is out. Increased physical activity improves children's health and decreases their likelihood of obesity, which is especially important since 17 percent of American children are obese.
Neighborhood schools positively affect the local economy by employing residents and purchasing materials from local businesses. Events hosted by schools provide opportunities for parents, students and community members to interact and collaborate.
We also cannot overlook one unintended negative consequence of closing a school that many neighborhoods are experiencing. Megan’s Law states that a registered sex offender cannot live within 1000 feet of a school. When a school closes, this provides another place for sex offenders to move in. In addition to being an unpalatable idea, this may also hurt your finances. Houses near the residence of a sex offender tend to sell for less than comparable homes that are located farther away.
Good neighborhood schools help the community by positively affecting property values. Simply said, a good school equals good property values. Therefore, it is in a homeowner’s best interest to not only keep schools open, but to pay to maintain high quality facilities and academic performance.
You may be asking why I’m talking so much about the importance of Newark’s neighborhood schools, and what this has to do with me urging you to vote YES on Measure G. The school bond would be used to do necessary updates on school facilities. This will free up money in the district’s budget. If this bond measure doesn’t pass, school district money will have to be used to make these updates and this means we will lose funding for programs, teacher salaries, etc. The School Board has talked in the past about closing schools in order to balance the budget or cutting programs like electives and sports. Either one of these options will weaken our school system in Newark.
Do I wish that our federal and state governments made education a priority so we wouldn’t have to pass bond measures? YES! Do I think Newark schools need to make changes to continue to provide quality education? YES! Will I be one of the citizens watching closely to ensure that the bond money is used properly? YES - we all should. Most of all, I realize that by investing in my neighborhood schools, I am making an investment in my property, my community, and my children. I hope you realize this as well and vote Yes on Measure G.
- Cara Madden-Watson, Newark