Community rallies around schools

Pinckney and Broken Arrow parents show out to support their schools facing closure

By Maya Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Emotions ran high today as students, teachers and parents of Pinckney and Broken Arrow gathered at their schools to help convince the USD 497 school board of why their schools deserved to be saved from closure.

Sporting school shirts, enthusiasm, and school spirit, families brought signs and courage to help save their schools, Broken Arrow and Pinckney. 

The two selected schools on the chopping block for closure were voted on by the board after a lengthy debate at the Feb. 27 meeting.

Community members were invited to speak directly to the board before their final vote on Monday.

The district is looking to close buildings with lower enrollment as a part of much larger budget cuts planned for next year. The board’s goal in cutting these schools would ideally lead to more competitive staff pay.

Around 100 or so participants showed up at Broken Arrow Elementary, and had close to 35 public commenters. Pinckney had around the same numbers with closer to 40 speakers. Speeches were followed by silent applause to save as much time as possible.

At Broken Arrow, parents expressed issues ranging from the repurposing of the building to declining property values in the neighborhood if the school is closed.

“How many millions are we going to spend? We are just chasing our tails,” a Broken Arrow parent said. “I challenge each of these members to truly outweigh the children that it affects. We feel that our children’s lives are being played in a financial chess game.”

Pinckney parents had one main, common theme of how Pinckney was a family that did not deserve to be split up.

“Pinckney continues to make a difference. This community will continue to work if you just give it a chance,” a Pinckney parent said. “We can try to find the money. We can try to find a solution. Please, don’t close our walkable, neighborhood school. We’re a family.”

Pinckney parents also stressed the importance of title programs provided to students by the Pinckney staff.

“Pinckney has a food pantry and laundry service. Do other schools have this type of community?” a Pinckney parent said. 

Out of all the speakers, what had the most impact though was what the students of these schools had to say. 

“I have a question for you. How can you propose to cut such a great school?” a Broken Arrow student said. “My teachers and my mom taught me to stand up for what I think is right. Don’t split up my friends and I. Friends stick together.”

Going forward, the board will make a final vote at the March 27 meeting. 

“Our kids have been through enough.” a Broken Arrow parent said. “COVID hit. Now, this hit. No one’s talking about the trickle-down effect. What consistency is there? Kids have been through enough.”