BEC students and parents rally to save their school

BEC walk

Shouts of “WE ARE--- BEC!” could be heard throughout the borough of Birdsboro today, as hundreds rallied together in support of saving their elementary school.

Parents, students, and the community marched the streets in protest of the school board’s consideration to close the Birdsboro Elementary Center to save the district money.

A public hearing dedicated to the issue is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 24. But with a possible vote for a reconfiguration of Daniel Boone’s schools at the school board meeting prior to, (6 p.m. Monday, March 24) parents fear their voice will have no place to be heard.

In response, BEC parents organized the afternoon’s walk as a message that the community is strong, united and in favor of having a school nearby.

“We need an elementary school in our town,” Jean McKim, Birdsboro resident and parent of a child at BEC, said. “We don’t want to lose it.”

A sea of blue and white braced the chilly spring wind to stand together for their elementary school. The community gathered at 1:30 p.m. at Main Bird Park where glitter and markers made their way onto poster board for signs that read S.O.S. Save Our School, clipboards with the petition were available to sign and local officials spoke to inspire the crowd.

“Our students deserve better,” Mayor Joseph Peterson said. Peterson, along with Aaron Durso, borough manager, and Cindy McGee, borough council member, voiced their support. Peterson encouraged everyone to attend the board meeting and public hearing Monday evening, and declared a “white out” -- wear white to show the unity of the BEC.

“We need to make education a first priority,” Cindy McGee, borough council member, exclaimed through a megaphone. Cheers, woo’s and claps met the official in response.

“There has been a school on that property since 1890,” Aaron Durso, borough manager, said, offering to show the documents to anyone who is interested. Durso appreciates the sense of community Birdsboro provides for residents, saying, “We live here -- we walk to our parks, churches, and schools.”

Located in a small community, a school located in the borough is a convenience for parents.

“The classrooms are already large enough. We wouldn’t mind a small tax increase [if it would keep the school open],” Julia Olafson, parent, said. “I love that it’s a community school.”

“It’s easy to have for [the children]. It’s close, and nice that way,” Matt Elgonitis, Birdsboro, said at the rally. Elgonitis came with his son, Jacob, 9, who is a student at BEC.

It is not only the parents who want their children close to their community when at school.

Alyson Hand, 10, Birdsboro, wants the school to stay open so her two younger sisters, who are going into third and fourth grades, can have the same experience she did. Hand is a fifth grader at BEC, and serves as student council president.

“I used to go to BEC, it was the foundation of my childhood,” Madison Mittnacht, Birdsboro, said while assisting her little sister to make a sign. “I want my sister to follow in my footsteps.”

“I want my sister, Sofia, to grow up in the same school I did,” Mila Harley, 12, said. Harley’s sister is in first grade at BEC, but may have to attend a different school if the board votes to close the elementary center.

“My brother is in kindergarten. I don’t want him going far away to Amity or Monocacy [elementary schools],” Kellyn Casner, 10, said. Casner likes living close to her elementary school, and would rather not see younger brother on the bus for a long amount of time.

Birdsboro resident Steve Silverman also does not want to see the elementary students spending over an hour on a bus.

“My granddaughter graduated from BEC last year,” Steve Silverman said. Silverman notices the effort of the borough to make Birdsboro a better place to live, by bringing in businesses and jobs, but then consider closing a school. “A town without a school is on it’s way to nowhere,” he remarked.

“I would be sad to see it close,” Isabella Rulli, 11, said.

After the walk, the line of BEC supporters were welcomed to live music, pizza, chips and salsa, drinks and snacks.

The Daniel Boone School Board meeting will be held 6 p.m. March 24 in the Daniel Boone Middle School auditorium, 1845 Weavertown Road, Douglassville. The public hearing regarding the closing of the Birdsboro Elementary Center will be held at 7:30 in the Daniel Boone Middle School auditorium.

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.