MOLINE -- Despite protests and arguments, Moline school superintendent David Moyer said the school board's 5-2 vote Monday night to close Ericsson and Garfield schools and expand Hamilton is a new dawn for the district.
"I think that, starting tomorrow morning, we can look at the next 50 years in Moline, not the last 80 years," he said.
More than 140 people attended the meeting at Wilson Middle School to hear the board's decision on the proposed operational plan designed to save the district $3.2 million. The facilities plan to close the two schools and expand Hamilton is expected to save $350,000 and narrow the achievement gap for all students.
Before the vote, hundreds of community members attended input sessions to air concerns. Ericsson supporters were a large presence at the sessions, arriving with signs and saying the school's closure would hurt the families of the close-knit neighborhood.
On Monday, board members heard strong words against the plan from two of their own: members Ben McAdams and Bob Tallitsch.
Mr. Tallitsch said community members are not the only ones left without answers and questioning the district's timing.
"There's simply so many unknowns," he said. "We're being told we have to vote yes, we have to hire a contractor, and then these things will be answered. I think that's totally backwards."
Mr. Tallitsch argued the district should consider expanding Ericsson school. The school in a transition neighborhood where people move into the country and learn the language and the educational system. Research in favor of larger schools versus neighborhood schools is a wash, he said, but literature on closing ethnic or low socio-economic status schools is uniformly negative regarding the effect on parents and students.
Mr. McAdams spoke at length before the board's vote, citing specific concerns with all three schools in the facilities plan. He said he approached facilities director Darryl Snyder with specific transportation questions, including whether the city could pay to construct a bike path for safe travel to Hamilton school. He said Mr. Snyder had not met with the city.
Ultimately, decisions are being made too quickly, he said.
"I fully believe the closures will not improve the district," Mr. McAdams said.
He also read a letter from state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, urging the board to reconsider the plans and "discuss other solutions."
Monday's meeting included public comment from several people from outside of the district vehemently opposed to the plan. Speakers included individuals with ties to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Augustana College and Western Illinois University.
Maria Mier Llaca, of the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber, said the fight against the school closures is not over. She expects the Hispanic chamber, the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens will seek legal action through their attorneys.
Ms. Llaca said, among the injustices of district's process, attendees should have been provided with certified translators to assist them through the process.
Marina Varela, a resident of the Floreciente neighborhood, said she was disappointed by the board's action and the lack of information that remains.
"We have to wait until after they start destroying our schools," she said. "I think we deserve more."
Just after Ms. Varela made her comments, she and a large group of Ericsson supporters were told they had to move to the public sidewalk near the road. Supporters lined the road, holding 'Save our school' signs and chanting, "Ericsson! Ericsson!"
Today is Tuesday, March 11, the 70th day of 2014. There are 295 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done by hogs that are running at large about town. The marshal will take them up and sell them if their owners do not contain them. 1889 -- 125 years ago: George Newberry, Daniel Strecker, Al Webb and James Dixon returned from a voyage down the Mississippi River as far as Memphis, Tenn., on a flat. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Augustana College was put out of the running for the state collegiate basketball title when defeated by Millikin. The Viking lineup included Sten, Samuelson and Swanbeck, forwards, and Holtgren, Johnson and Berg, guards. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The coronation of Pope Pius XII and preliminary ceremonies were broadcast by WHBF on the Mutual Radio Network. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Reactivation of a portion of the J.I. Case Co, plant in Rock Island as a supplier for component parts for the firm's manufacturing centers at Racine, Wis., or Burlington, Iowa, is under consideration. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Downtown Moline business owners will have a chance to help shape the city's future through a survey being done by the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission.