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Elementary closure hearing draws a crowd

Adding to the problem is the fact elementary enrollment is dropping instead of increasing. Clarksville was left with 203 students this year, by far the lowest enrollment in the district. That has led to the propagation of multi-age classrooms, which some parents have objected to.

But Robert Jessup, the parent of a Clarksville student, said the school's small, tight-knit atmosphere has been a boon to his child.

"The environment at Clarksville has actually been wonderful for him," he said. "I think that small school environment is very important."

But others argued Clarksville enrollment is already dangerously low, and if it should dip any more it would deprive students of growth opportunities like chances for socialization.

"Due to redistricting, this is not the same school it was five years ago," read an online comment submitted by one of the roughly 150 at-home viewers of the forum.

Many in the audience last night clearly felt the closure of the school was a foregone conclusion. Board of Education President James Dering said comments the board has been receiving reflect that sentiment.

"I can assure you that no decision has been made. That's the reason for these forums," he said.

Also on the table is the closure of Elsmere Elementary School. Administrators figure that would save a comparable amount to closing Clarksville, but it would also require a full redistricting effort since the closure would impact a more densely populated area of the district and thus multiple schools.

A few members of the audience " both at home and in person " took pot shots at both institutions in defending their neighborhood school, but others urged civility and told their peers not to turn against one another. Still, some members of the Clarksville community said that as the only school outside the Town of Bethlehem they have long felt they are second class citizens.

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