Time to act

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 1999

From staff reports

Closure of Brookside Middle School to students for next year is unfortunate.

Tuesday, December 07, 1999

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Closure of Brookside Middle School to students for next year is unfortunate.

The question is, what is this community going to do about it?

Not about Brookside, that is, but about population.

Brookside Middle School was closed to students for next school year in reaction to declining school enrollment, which is to say fewer children. Brookside will remain in use for district offices, community education, special services and the alternative learning center; meanwhile the district should strive to keep renovations of Brookside to a minimum for these purposes, using the building as it is today.

But even with Brookside &uot;closed,&uot; population remains a problem. Demographic projections call for about 1,000 fewer students over the next decade, which may result in many more changes ahead for the school district.

Will that be more closed schools? Smaller classes? Programs cut?

And what about the long-term effect on the community as a whole. Will fewer young people mean fewer workers still? And fewer people to care for an apparently growing elderly population? Will employers leave in search of workers elsewhere?

While several efforts are now attempting to lure workers and their families here, and the city offers several lures including Riverland college, Albert Lea Medical Center and an inviting environment, more needs to be done.

Development along Interstate 35 may be a major key; it has taken decades for Albert Lea to reach the point where such development is possible. Perhaps an improved presence upon this major interstate will help put Albert Lea on the map, drawing passersby in for a closer look at what the city has to offer.

But, now is the time to pursue such development zealously; 10 years from now, if several schools are closed and academic programs are cut in reaction to population changes, it will be even more difficult to recover.