Rumors continue to swirl around Mentone about closing Moon Lake Elementary School. Official discussions have been held about that likelihood and will continue until board members vote about the future of the unique school atop Lookout Mountain. That future may include consolidation with the school at Valley Head. Both schools are kindergarten through grade six.
Should Moon Lake consolidate with Valley Head, only about four teacher units will be saved. Other teachers will be assigned to other schools, as all have tenure. The salary savings will be negligible.
According to figures provided by the Alabama State Department of Education, the total expense for Moon Lake for fiscal year 2018 was $1,189,952. The local part of that funding is a minuscule amount. Local expenses were $79,085, or just over 6.6 percent. The rest of the money to pay expenses came from state and federal funds.
The school lunchroom does show a loss of about $3,600 a month and has a monthly deficit of that same amount for some 10 years. That loss could be erased by preparing meals at the Valley Head Elementary cafeteria, for instance, and taken to Moon Lake to be served. Other school systems have done that for some time.
It’s also important to note that attendance at Moon Lake has increased by 20 percent over last year, from 65 to 78 students.
There’s more to Moon Lake Elementary than just the numbers, although the State Department of Education’s 2018 report card clearly indicates what type of students MLES produces. In the most recent grading period, Moon Lake was the only school in DeKalb County that scored an overall A, with a score of 93. The DeKalb County System had a score of 78, and the Fort Payne City System had an 85. Valley Head School scored a 74. Further, Moon Lake Elementary has the highest reading and math scores in the county as well.
Yes, by every measure, the Moon Lake School is the standard bearer of excellence in DeKalb County education and there are specific reasons for that. It is the only elementary school in the county that provides instruction in art, music and a foreign language. That instructor is not paid out of country funds or taxpayer monies. It is funded by the Mentone Educational Resources Foundation, or MERF. Mentone residents raise the funds to provide an extra measure of education for its students and the result is better-educated kids who develop problem-solving skills and they are divergent thinkers. Isn’t that what every school is charged with doing?
Are members of the DeKalb County School Board in a mood for consolidation to save money? Consolidating Geraldine, Crossville and Collinsville into a South DeKalb High School would save much more money. Perhaps combining Valley Head, Henagar, Plainview and Sylvania would work.
No, that’s not a good idea. Each of these communities has their school as the heartbeat of their community, just like Mentone has Moon Lake. Closing the community school with the highest record of academic achievement makes no sense either. I urge members of the DeKalb County Board of Education to reject this idea.
Ben Shurett, Mentone
Send letters to the Times-Journal by writing P.O. Box 680349, Fort Payne, AL 35968. Fax 256-845-7459. Email kbeaty@times-