About 130 parents, teachers and community members gathered Thursday night at the Cowlitz PUD auditorium in Longview to marshal their resources and organize a fight against merging Longview high schools.

“It’s up to us to tell our board members now what we believe is and isn’t right,” said Susie Kirkpatrick of Save Longview Schools, a citizens’ group that is protesting the merger.

In February, a 48-member facilities committee recommended a plan to combine R.A. Long and Mark Morris high schools on the R.A. Long campus, close Monticello Middle School and bus students to two other middle schools, and close Northlake Elementary School and Broadway Learning Center. The plan does not include laying off teacher or other staff.

If approved, the district would sell Mark Morris and either Northlake or Broadway and use the proceeds to offset a predicted decline in enrollment — and state money. Possible buyers include Lower Columbia College and Phoenix developer Don Cardon, a former Longview city worker who is eying a substantial downtown redevelopment project.

Nearly every seat was filled during the 90-minute meeting Thursday night, and a few dozen people stood in the back. At one table, supporters sold T-shirts that read, “Lumberjacks and Monarchs — Working Together to Keep Us Apart.”

Seven speakers, including keynote and former Marysville, Wash., teacher Stuart Hunt, argued strongly against the merger plan, saying it would create overcrowded middle schools, a traffic nightmare at R.A. Long and the demise of the rich rivalry between the two high schools. Speakers also questioned whether the district needs to take such drastic belt-tightening steps while maintaining a reserve fund.

Hunt, a Longview native, compared what’s happening now in Longview to Marysville in the late 1990s, when administrators merged schools and adopted a concept called “smaller learning communities.” Hunt said the results were disastrous at a district still smarting from a 2003 teachers' strike, the longest in state history.

Students were shuffled into small groups in larger schools. Extra-curricular activities were cut. Teacher frustration grew.

“Marysville messes could very easily become Longview’s messes,” he said.

Sandy Catt, a school district spokeswoman, also attended the meeting and said she was impressed at the passion, but added that the district is dealing with declining enrollment and buildings that are 24 percent below student capacity.

“Looking at a 20-year future for the district, I think the whole study and survey was to take a long-term perspective on it. And I don’t believe there is any sort of immediate danger at this point. In all good prudence, it behooves the district to look at long-term stability in the buildings it has,” she said.

The Longview School Board is planning another study session on the merger plan

6 p.m. March 25 and two more in April, Catt said. The board has the final say on school closures, and no vote has been scheduled.

Opponents say they are planning to start doorbelling, hanging yard signs and posters and calling school board members to voice their opinion against closing schools.

“I will do anything to prevent Monticello from closing,” said Claudia Scattergood, a 22-year Monticello teacher.

Editor's note (March 18): A previous version of this story misstated Stuart Hunt's job and the timing of the 2003 Marysville teachers' strike. This version is correct.

(27) comments

Quit Yer Bitchen

It's a done deal people it's a done deal!

leroy

It cannot be a done deal until the school board votes on May 13. The district administration works for the school board. The deal cannot proceed without board approval, which they DO NOT HAVE, regardless of the articles in the paper and the district's own rhetoric. This is EXACTLY what they want us to think, so we don't bother to fight back.

Sharky

This opposition seems to have an air of MM elitism about it. I would guess few RAL parents are too concerned about the merger. I laugh at the term 'mega school" used by opposition, as if good 4A schools don't exist. The only decent argument opposition has is Monticello walking distance for the local students. I think that can be addressed properly. Keeping MM and RAL makes no financial sense.

getinvolved

RAL parent, one of many who are concerned. It is estimated that merger will eliminate over 1,000 extra activities spots per yr. ASB/Clubs/Arts/Sports/Court etc which impacts resumes for college & scholarship apps. Many who are helping the "Don't" cause have no children that are even in school anymore, they are just concerned for all kids in the community. Loosing Monticello would indeed be a tragic plan for walkers. No elitism. Many educators do not support the merge. savelongviewschools.org

Sharky

The best benefit of shutting MM never mentioned: Eliminating the endless lunchtime crosswalk stream blocking 15th.

SenseofSensibility

LCC & MM need to look at YVCC (Yakima) to see how to deal with foot traffic across a busy street. Build an overpass walkway. It has been a tremendous help to that community.

Hope2013

I have to agree at bit with Sharky's comment about "MM elitism". I am truly staying open to reviewing all options and far from forming a final opinion, but I would also bet the opposition is being largely led by MM parents/alumni that just can not fathom "their kids" going to school with "those kids" Whatever happens, the educational and social wellfare of ALL the kids needs to be the modivating factor, not where I (or my child) was a basketball star 10 years ago.
FYI- I was "one of those kids"

leroy

There's not a significant difference in "their kids" and "those kids". The demographic gap has narrowed dramatically.There ARE many MM parents and alumni on board with the opposition,but many of them have kids that will have long since graduated before the proposed merger takes place. I respectfully disagree with your characterization of their motives. Maybe they're concerned about what's best for ALL Longview kids, specifically Monticello kids, who appear to have little voice at this point.

SenseofSensibility

As one who did not grow up or attend high school in this community I have "no dog in the fight". But I have lived here and paid taxes for 20 years with not kids in the public school system, so I welcome the merger and future tax savings. The nonsense about rich rivalries is just that, nonsense. Direct your attention to the rivalry with Kelso and consider that a merged high school will have a better pool of athletes and students from which to draw talent. Then the Longview High School...

getinvolved

Please check out the Don't Consolidate site as to the thought of "future tax" savings, there are none. If merge occures taxes will skyrocket, as well as paying for new buildings if growth does occure. Selling MM does not cover the "proposal", therefore the burden of this plan will fall onto the tax payers. Please check out the website: savelongviewschools.org

SenseofSensibility

will begin to have a chance to rival Kelso High School. Sharky's comment may have some merit too in regard to both the "elitism" of MM and also in regard to the crosswalk traffic on 15th avenue each day. If the do not merge the schools.....at least build a walkway overpass for the LCC and MM students.

BigChinook

There are huge flaws in the numbers and the research that was conducted by the district and their "consultant". The district repeatedly changed their numbers throughout the process, calling into question whether or not any of the #s presented were reliable. There is not room at Mt. Solo and Cascade for 250-300 extra kids. It will be a travesty to dump kids into inadequate facilities. There is more here than meets the eye, why do they REALLY want to close Monticello and RA Long? Look deeper.

getinvolved

I am RAL parent. I agree strongly with NOT merging. If the folks that think this is about "elitism", they have not been reading very carefully. It is about making sure ALL kids do not get lost in a huge crowd, sticking by what voters approved with 3 sm middle schools. (Sad but true the have nots are who will be lost in this merge, all graduation rate gains will be lost) Monticello closure will devastate students who may already be facing a multitude of at home issue's & our taxes will skyrocket

Elvira

BigChinook has it right!!! Look deeper!!!!! Longview, we have an administration who is the least-trusted regime (by teachers) in LEA history. They have led with thug-tactics, dishonesty, and deceit for years. A vast majority of teachers were ready to announce a "no-confident" vote in April, 2012, but a very weak president, Dennis Weber, let this ground-swelling movement dissipate in politics. Please don't allow the egos of a few (including Jerry Stinger, SB Pres.) wreck Longview Schools.

myview

Other alternatives exist.

We need to look at the plans our founding fathers had for the RALHS campus and consider concept drawings for that option. A longer, more rich and more logical rivalry with Kelso HS existed long before the students of Longview were split between two high school. The three middle schools should stay small to serve students of a pivotal age in which teachers can advance their knowledge and skills.

Back to the drawing board.

Gramaof3

It seems to me this committee was quick to jump on the band wagon of merging RAL/MM, closing NL and Broadway and moving Monticello students to the two existing middle schools. I'd be interested in learning what other options may or may not have been discussed by this committee?
This is a HUGE decision which will impact our entire community/future and needs to be thoroughly explored. It may or may not be cost effective in the long run if our community grows and we are having to build more schools

dooger

Sharkey's comments about "elitism" is as off track as his comments about Mark Morris' girls basketball team. Hey Sharkey the polls were correct, MM girls won the State Championship!! I'm a RAL grad and I feel the merging of the two schools is a huge step backwards. It seems to be more of an ego trip for the superintendent and the school board then what is really best for the kids.

Mobilemehappy

We have 4 children in the LV school district. I could care LESS if they are Lumberjacks or Monarchs. This is NOT about avoiding mixing groups of kids with others. That is about the most nescient thing I have read on this board so far. I want my kids educated! This is about the quality of education we are providing our children. If you think shoving another 200 kids in each of the middle schools is going to be better educationally, you are out of touch. Come to the school and see! Elitism?!

Cathlamet Craig

"Mega" schools can be oppressive to youths who don't fit in as 'popular' or athletes. Student enrollment may be declining, but that alone is not a valid reason to create a "mega" school.
Given the layout of Mark Morris H.S., it would only be an architectural effort to divide off a portion for private use (offices, labs, etc.). Income from that portion could offset expenses due to declining enrollment.
Monticello M.S. deserves to survive on strategic location grounds alone.

Euphonium

When enduring declining enrollment we should not use "Reserves" to maintain a teaching empire nor should any monies be diverted to maintain excess properties. As this area of the economy is declining, so should all government services decline as well.

No Judgement

I disagree with the High School merger. Increasing one school size by that many students will make learning more difficult. Many students will lose opportunity to play sports, students will feel disengaged, vandalism & violence will likely increase, some teachers will probably lose their jobs which will all hurt the community. It will hurt students who live in the Monticello School area also if they are having to go to Mt. Solo or Cascade which will increase those schools sizes also. No Good!

Concerned Citizen 36

Doing this to create great sports teams is extremely short sighted. Good bye state competition. Mark Morris is just a few percent behind RAL in the number of free and reduced lunch kids and minorities abound. This is not the 70s and 80s anymore folks. Teachers follow kids so staffs will stay the same so no savings there. Appears many R.A. Long alum have no problem of the name and mascot becoming history to obviously this isn’t an emotional issue.

kitten

Here is the solution! Longview is saying they will shut down the Administrative offices and turn that area into parking. Instead of messing with all the students, why not simply shut down the Administrative offices and move the Administrators into the empty classrooms in the current high schools? A few people misplaced rather than hundreds! Hmm, which makes more sense? Of course I am sure the administrators would disagree. Do the study, it would probably save enough and cost lots less to do!

gogetyourown

Silly people.. You cant change it.. Still plenty of good schools just south of Longview.

1 RIdgefield
2 La-Center
3 Kalama
4. Hockinson (if you have the grades to make the cut)

Great schools are not far.. All score better so why not! Why fix something that is broken? Just move like I will. I will have a nice Longview Rental house out of the deal..


leroy

All good schools, true. But they've a 20-35% poverty rate (based on OSPI's website), whereas Longview's is between 36-56%. At the risk of sounding "elitist", you have to compare apples to apples.Kids in poverty don't usually score as well. Not because they're not smart, but other stuff interferes w/education.Also,the largest of the schools you mentioned is about 700 kids. RALong and MM are between 850-1200. You have accidentally made a valid argument for smaller schools, which means NO MERGER.

justanotherguy197x

There are plenty of pros and cons to either side. I am politically Independent, for whatever that's worth and I'm firm believer that we should pay MORE taxes for education--but I want my taxes to pay for smart things, and vacant space in classrooms isn't necessarily one of them. Also, nothing would help our community more than giving LCC more room to grow. Look at other smallish towns that have thriving colleges...their K-12 programs are better, their job markets are better, etc.

Robjames5
Robjames5

The name and mascot of RAL doesnt have to change at all with the merger.. I mean it could go back to Longview HS. But no need to change history at all and yes I know MM has history but only for a short time compared to founding fathers school.

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