Small school district faces possible changes

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By Associated Press

LOVING — A proposal to close, consolidate or redistrict small school districts in New Mexico is weighing heavily on the minds of parents in Loving.
Schools Superintendent Kristina Baca, who strongly opposes the idea, said the proposal is on the table but is not a done deal.
However, fearing imminent closure, Baca said several parents have withdrawn children from Loving High School and re-enrolled them at Carlsbad High School.
The middle and elementary schools have not seen a shift in student population.
Baca said it’s her understanding school redistricting legislation is being drafted and will be proposed during the upcoming 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday.
“The Government Restructuring Task Force has made the recommendation. The task force was formed by former Gov. Bill Richardson to explore ways to reduce the state’s budget shortfall,” Baca explained.
One area the task force considered was consolidation of small school districts. Baca said there are 89 school districts in New Mexico, and more than 60 percent are considered small.
In a pamphlet sent to Loving parents and others in the community, Baca said “redistricting is premature and an ill-conceived concept to save a few bucks on the backs of small school districts. Consolidation is not the answer to closing the New Mexico funding gap.”
Baca has urged parents and district supporters to contact their legislators.
Before the Christmas break, some parents in Loving began circulating a petition opposing any proposed legislation to close small school districts.
“We have the ability to speak with a united voice and help our local legislators spread our message. We should not let Santa Fe make decisions for our community and rural New Mexico,” Baca told parents.
Baca said research does not support the concept larger school districts will improve learning, nor will it be less expensive.
“They don’t have a model for that,” Baca said.
“It will require a costly and time-consuming study. Even if they decide to close and consolidate the small districts, it’s not going to happen this year or next year.
“Also, I think politically, it will face great difficulty.”
Baca said she believes if the proposal is approved, small communities like Loving will lose representation as they’re absorbed into larger districts.
Parents said the closure of the district would be devastating to students.
“It would be a tragedy,” said Maria Hernandez, mother of a high school senior.
“These kids have grown up together from kindergarten through their senior year. If this happened today, my son would have to start over again at another school. This school is their life. They are like family.”