Editorial: An intriguing school idea in Cascade Locks

November 30, 2011

For years the Cascade Locks Charter School Committee has gone "back to the drawing board" in its efforts to forge a charter school deal with the Hood River County School District.

We believe both parties have always acted in good faith, but now the Cascade Locks Committee has decided it can no longer work with the HRCSD and has put forth a proposal to merge with neighboring Corbett School District.

This is definitely one for the chalkboard - that is, worth considering, but carefully.

Since the Charter Committee is about self-determination - giving parents a choice of where to educate their children, and doing so in their own town - the idea of merging with another jurisdiction needs to be examined. How might that option freely allow Cascade Locks, as a community, to chart its own course for its families' sake?

Details are far from set, but what is being considered is changing the boundary so that the school becomes part of Corbett district. The new masters would become Corbett's school board. This district is, it must be stressed, located in another county. State school support payments, ownership of prime real estate and money would go out of county and into the hands of a group of people 20 miles away, rather similar to the case now with HRCSD.

And it just might be the thing to do. Corbett has a great reputation, which committee members suggest means they have the resources and aptitude to turn Cascade Locks into a magnet school for local kids and motivated parents who are willing to carpool 45 minutes or longer to get their kids to their school of choice.

But again, is that the same as self-determination?

Committee chairman George Fischer and consultant Connie Kennedy Buttaccio present a strong case, and say the group is primed to begin circulating a petition that they believe would open the right legal doors to allow the merger. And on Monday, Cascade Locks City Council gave unanimous support to the idea.

It all leads to an ideal forum for vetting this imaginative proposal: the Joint Task Force of the Port and City of Cascade Locks, which meets Dec. 5.

Ultimately, a change such as this merger has to be considered in light of the community's economic needs. Part of Fischer's argument is that Cascade Locks businesses suffer from parents heading out of town to school events in Hood River and elsewhere.

So with the idea of an economic benefit tied to keeping students and families in Cascade Locks, the community should take a holistic look at the economic implications of changing ownership of one of the town's proudest facilities, its school, which Fischer rightly calls "the living room of the community."

Would it make sense for Cascade Locks to turn over its living room to a neighbor? Would it truly lead to self-determination?

Perhaps it would. But like any good homework assignment, this one deserves time and examination from all sides, before proceeding.

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