Letter to the Times: Following school closure vote, we have entered the history books

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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“It’s the adults that make these schools great, not the actual building itself.”

Dr. Lewis, you could not have missed the point more. It is the adults that are why this space is being stolen from our children. It is you and those like you who care more for your dollars than for the sense of community that exists within those walls. It is people like you who wait too long to sound the alarm so that they might end up with what they wanted in the first place.

Both of the schools slated for closure sit on land given to the school district on the condition that they be used for schools. Did you know they don’t even call schools “schools” anymore? They call them “attendance centers.” They probably call them that so that they cannot be contractually obliged to keep them open.

Throughout this process, this community has begged for the administration of USD 497 to show their work and cite their sources and they have refused. They have silenced those seeking to share the voices of our children while telling stories of necessity and difficult choices. But this community’s identity wasn’t formed by governing institutions; it was formed by the fight in the hearts of its people.

People of Lawrence, please understand we have just entered the history books. It will be the work that we put in from this moment forward that determines how we will be seen. Let us hope these students learn the lessons Langston Hughes learned while attending the kinds of schools that get closed down in communities where buildings that bear his name are safe. Let them know the words of their Brother Langston —

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

— Topher Enneking, Lawrence

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