For the first time in almost a century, the bell will no longer ring inside the halls at St. Barbara School in Brookfield.
Next week, moms and dads will wait for their kids outside the school at Windemere and Prairie for the last time. On June 5, St. Barbara is closing for good.
That the school would not survive the year is not a complete surprise. It had been losing students for the past couple of years, and families began to desert en masse in 2011-12 as rumors swirled early on that this year would be the school’s last. No Catholic elementary school in a middle class suburb during an economic recession can survive with fewer than 70 students in grades K-8.
On the other hand, a serious effort to save the school from the inevitable came far too late. Those who worked on those committees did a fine job and worked very hard to salvage the school. But by the time the parish announced benchmarks for fundraising and enrollment, there was no time. A month. And then what happens next year?
The time for re-visioning the school was two years ago when a group of area schools was contemplating a regional center. Schools that saw the writing on the wall for that dream got ahead of the curve and began forging a new identity on their own, because the regional center was never going to happen.
And the archdiocese, where were they? The archdiocese left it up to the parish to come to them. If the school was going to close, the blame would land in the lap of the parish.
We feel bad for families who have lost an institution that has served generations of their kids. We feel bad for a parish that has lost a central institution that has help create a sense of family. We feel bad for Brookfield, which has lost an important grade school and early childhood education option for its residents.
In the end, there’s no positive to losing a school.
Sunny on solar panels
It may not have an immediate effect, but Riverside’s new law expanding the ability for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels on their buildings is another positive step in the village’s ongoing commitment to encouraging sustainable practices.
Also encouraging was the community’s largely supportive stance regarding solar panels. Riverside is a traditional place when it comes to architecture, particularly when it comes to buildings that contribute to the village’s historic character.
However, any attempts to install solar panels on the village’s landmark buildings will be thoroughly vetted by the same process that exists now when those property owners wish to modify their homes.
In the meantime, the new law will allow for new construction – it will happen again, eventually – to utilize the most current solar panel technology and integrate them into the designs.
Solar panels don’t have to be a blight. They can also be an opportunity. Here’s to Riverside for embracing that opportunity.