Wasson High School students, alumni, teachers and parents made passionate pleas and rattled off data Wednesday in an effort to convince Colorado Springs School District 11 to keep the school open.
Some were almost in tears as they shared personal stories of finding safety and success in Wasson. The Thunderbirds are a family, they said.
Others did not waiver as they presented numbers and anecdotes to show that Wasson is improving and critical to students’ lives.
A few students and parents demanded honesty from the administration and the school board, saying they believe the decision to close Wasson has been made. They promised to leave the district if the school closes, regardless of driving times.
“We’re not objects to be moved around a shelf,” said one student.
“Look at me as a student, not a number, not money,” said Jarod Hauner, 15. Many in the crowd waived papers with dollar signs on them.
Every speaker ended their comments amid loud and rousing cheers, applause and whistles from the 300 people in the auditorium.
District administration earlier this month recommended closing Wasson, 2115 Afton Way, Lincoln Elementary School, 2727 N. Cascade Ave., and Bates Elementary School, 702 Cragmor Road, at the end of this school year. The recommendations stemmed from a study of how to use district facilities more efficiently.
Part of the plan to close Wasson is to combine the district’s alternative programs with new offerings such as concurrent college enrollment at the campus.
Parent Toni Chilton has a junior and senior at Wasson, who permit in from Mitchell High School. They chose Wasson for its academic offerings.
“I’m very disappointed,” she said. “The school board has taken our money, our trust and our most valuable asset — our children — and treated them with disregard.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the last of four held to gather public input. Wasson supporters have been vocal at every one.
Outside the school, large signs were tied to the fences on the edges of the school, declaring “Save WHS” and “Save Wasson.”
Accomplishments by Wasson students were listed on posters on the walls. Students in the school’s culinary arts program provided refreshments. Wasson choir students performed.
A steady stream of people spoke their minds to the administrators and four board members who attended Wednesday night. The meeting was scheduled to end at 8 p.m., but it continued well past that hour.
District staff did not strictly enforce the three-minute limit on comments.
Many speakers bought up promises made in 2009 to keep Wasson open for at least five years, and how the “cloud of closure” is part of the struggle to bring in students.
So many things will be lost if Wasson closes, said 18-year-old Crystal Alexander, who graduated from the school last year.
There’s a sense of community and culture, she said. She praised her teachers, and said her experiences at Wasson were a key part of her life.
“You’re losing a great place for a kid to grow up and become an adult,” she said.
Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice