Letter To The Editor: Dismayed By Suggestion To Close Chamisa

By Patricia McCulloch
White Rock

Dear Editor and Los Alamos School Board,

My children are the third generation in my family to attend Pinon school. My father was in the inaugural class at Chamisa, and was there the day the kids from Pinon packed up their supplies and walked as a group to the newly built Chamisa Elementary School. I attended Pinon from K-6th grade, and I currently have a 2nd and 4th grader at Pinon. So I am quite invested in the future of our community schools.

I am dismayed by the suggestion to close Chamisa and consolidate the White Rock schools into one large school. As a parent, I see the value that we have in both of our WR schools, which are often touted as a prized asset in this community. Pinon and Chamisa each have a neighborhood feel. Many of the children can walk or bike to school, and local volunteers man the crosswalks.

The parents are invested in the schools, and the fields are used for community and children’s sporting events after hours and during the summer. The playgrounds offer a safe, attractive, healthy place for kids to play. Taking Chamisa away, and turning Pinon into a much bigger school, is like ripping the heart out of these communities.

My husband and I returned to White Rock after graduate school in large part due to the safe, small, elementary schools that White Rock provided. At Pinon, everyone knows my kids by name. The staff and fellow parents watch out for all of the kids. There is a sense of ownership and pride when the kids participate in fundraising events for the school, and the school fosters my children’s growth and prepares them for the much bigger middle school.

I know that my friends with children at Chamisa feel the same way, and that they love their school as much as we love Pinon. I recently visited a friend in North Carolina. Her elementary school children ride 20 minutes by car daily to their school of 900 students. It is a year round system with kids tracking in and out. The carpool line to pick the kids up at the end of the day took over 1 hour, and each child wears an identity tag.

When I visited the school with her I realized how lucky my children have been to be in such a personal, individualized learning environment rather than just another number in the quota.

As a Physician Assistant who works in pediatrics, I see another side to this. My concern with consolidating schools is that the children who currently bike or walk to Chamisa will have to be taken by bus or car to Pinon, further contributing to the lack of exercise and resulting obesity and related health problems many children are unfortunately facing today. Every opportunity for exercise is important to our kids.  

Pinon’s dropoff area in the a.m. is already crowded. Consolidating the schools will contribute to this greatly. I see children from both Pinon and Chamisa walking with their friends and siblings home from school every day. How many communities in the U.S. can boast this about their neighborhood school – that it is close enough and safe enough for the kids to walk?  

We have invaluable assets here in White Rock that we as parents will fight to protect. Please consider these issues, and I encourage all interested to attend the upcoming meetings regarding this issue.