The cost of bringing back the Brothers School District should be within reach. State Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, hopes to persuade the full Legislature that’s true in the months ahead; we hope he’s successful.
The Brothers School District merged with the “nearby” Crook County School District in 2005, when the number of students enrolled in Brothers fell to zero. The previous two years, Brothers boasted three students in its K-8, one-room school, well below the 18-student minimum the state said it had to have to stay open.
It still doesn’t have the magic 18 students, but supporters of the effort to reopen the school believe they can put about a dozen kids in seats in the school, and they’d like the chance to try.
There are valid arguments to be made on both sides of the issue.
It costs more per student to educate a handful of students than it does to educate several hundred. Teacher salaries and benefits can be spread over a greater number of kids, as can transportation costs, for example.
For the 2003-04 school year, the district’s last in operation, it cost about $25,138 per student in direct classroom dollars. The statewide average that year was $3,656 per student. Brothers was also paying off a 10-year mortgage on its school building at about $35,000 a year.
On the other hand, the school in Brothers served students from one of the most isolated regions in Oregon, a sprawling area where neighbors are few and far between.
Now the children from those homes face an hourlong ride twice a day to and from school, plus travel time from home to the single school bus stop in the area. That sort of bus ride cannot do anything to make learning easy. And as safe as school buses are, that is a lot of hours on the road.
Reopening the Brothers school will also allow the students to sleep past 5:30 a.m. and to get home before 4:30 in the afternoon.
With luck, McLane will be able to convince fellow lawmakers reopening the school is money well spent.