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Re: “Is closing centers racist?

Pete, I am a parent, and I can't imagine letting my young child walk 1-2 miles through downtown traffic to Penrose Library and back, even if she weren't carrying heavy books. Nor can I picture asking the grandparents of children I know in the Hillside neighborhood, many of whom lack cars, to walk across Union/Hancock Expressway to get to Rancho Liborio and then carry heavy bags of produce back home. I enjoy the store too, but I have a vehicle.

As for school closures, I know districts claim to close schools based on utilization numbers. However, Hunt's utilization numbers last year did not take into account the fact that the older of its two buildings was fully utilized for Adult and Family Ed and preschool programs--even though they were D11 programs, utilization numbers only reflected children on census date in classrooms.

And while I know that there are many "white, middle-class" families in the Ivywild neighborhood, I also know that last year its percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunches was the highest in the district, and it served a number of children without homes, many of whom apparently no longer attend school, according to their teachers who can't locate them at any of the nearby schools.

I agree completely with you that Memorial Park is a beautiful city park with incredible resources, as I stated in my first email. I do know many families are wary of letting their children play there now that restrooms are closed, bus service ends earlier, and there is less policing of the area, but, like the rest of us, I'm hoping this is only a hiccup in park services that will soon be remedied.

Finally, I had nothing to do with the title of the article--but I stand by my position that the absence of resources can be considered environmental racism. We do need to take into account variations in individual resources--people in households with three vehicles may be able to find whatever services they need around town, but people who share a vehicle among several working adults or who have no vehicle at all need good, reliable resources close to home. And when people who rely on particular services--who may, in fact, have chosen to live where they do based on the accessibility of those services--are constantly threatened with their disappearance (whether said disappearance actually takes place or not), it becomes difficult to relax and enjoy what does exist. I watched children, families, and teachers cry openly in public forums last year as their schools were threatened--as I did myself on several occasions. I watched teachers and administrators try to deal with CSAPs as they simultaneously waited to hear whether their jobs would even be there the following year. I heard parents unselfconsciously state to the school board that they would never permit their children to attend school south of Platte, mindless of the rows of children in the audience from schools in those very areas who had to wonder why their neighborhoods were so frightening or so undesirable. I watched neighborhoods fight neighborhoods rather than banding together to protect their collective interests.

What I am arguing is not that we need to point fingers, but that we all need to work together to ensure that our community--our ENTIRE community--not only survives but thrives. You're right to say that we are lucky to have so many resources here in the Springs. I just wish we could all work together to make sure each one of our neighbors has equal access to those resources.

Posted by Kimbra on 02/27/2010 at 9:55 AM

Re: “Is closing centers racist?

Pete, I do in fact have evidence of this. To cite just one case, Colorado Springs School District 11 closed several neighborhood elementary schools last year, all in the areas of the city I'm referring to, all serving families in the lower- to mid-range quintiles in terms of income levels. No schools ranked in the upper two quintiles were affected at all, either by being closed or by having students from closed schools bused to their facilities.

To understand the impact of this, it's important to look at what people have available to them before they are impacted by this kind of decision. The area where I work, Hillside, has no public library, no full-service grocery or easy availability of fresh produce, no north-south bus route, very few local businesses where neighborhood residents could find employment--its primary resources are its neighborhood school, its community center, and the parks (Memorial Park and South Shooks Run). Admittedly, Hunt Elementary did not close, but it was being considered for closure. Its closest neighboring elementaries, Adams and Ivywild, were in fact closed, and the children from those areas who are now bused to Hunt no longer have easy access to after-school programming because they have no way to return to their home neighborhoods if their caregivers are working or don't have their own transportation. They face similar issues if they become ill during the day, since many of them formerly walked to school. In addition, several of Hunt's programs, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, have been cut. Regardless of the intention behind making these cuts, our fellow citizens are affected by them. Closing Hillside Community Center--or any of the other centers--will end another set of resources that are essential parts of people's lives within these neighborhoods, not to mention organizations that play a very important role in building community in the first place.

Posted by Kimbra on 02/18/2010 at 5:08 PM

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