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A hard lesson for Ashland

School closure board has doneits homework, now it's time to act

Half a year ago, when Ashland's school board was trying to figure out whether to close a school, this newspaper urged it to wait until it had the facts to back up what was sure to be a difficult, emotional decision.

Today, despite claims to the contrary, it has them.

The school board, when it meets Monday, should make the call it must for the financial stability of the district and close at least one elementary school.

Is it sad that the school topping the closure list is the long-loved, character-filled Briscoe, the district's most visible elementary school because of its position on Main Street? It is.

Is emotion about the school enough reason to keep it open? It is not.

The School Closure Committee appointed to research closing schools in Ashland has made the case well that the district ought to do with at least one ' and maybe two ' fewer elementary schools and that Briscoe is the place to start.

The recommendation can't be a big surprise to any Ashland resident who has been paying attention to the city's demographics over the last decade.

As home prices have grown ' the average Ashland house sells for just under &

36;300,000 today ' the number of residents with children has fallen. The district gets money for each child enrolled, so state funding has fallen accordingly.

The school district, facing budget problems like every other district in Oregon, says it can save at least &

36;300,000 a year for each school it closes. Lincoln school is the committee's second choice for closure.

Enrollment is low enough today in Ashland that students can be accommodated comfortably at three or four schools. And demographic reports predict the district will lose 15 percent more students in the coming five years.

Critics still want the district to look at other options. But that's what the committee has been doing since it began meeting this summer.

Ashland already has cut teaching staff, administrators and programs. It has tapped the generosity of residents, who donated about &

36;500,000 in a fund-raising effort last year. It collects extra money through city taxes that fund some programs.

Unless a large pile of cash suddenly drops from the sky, the options appear exhausted.

A decision to close one ' or if necessary, two ' schools, while unquestionably hard on everyone involved today, is the district's best hope for keeping programs on track in the future.

Ashland students deserve educators who can pay attention to education, not a staff perpetually preoccupied with the budget.

The district should close the school or schools it needs to close and then put the focus on making the remaining campuses shine.

Time to trade up

It's past time for the Portland Trail Blazers to clean house. They have become an embarrassment to Oregonians, who once revered their only major league franchise.

In case you don't read the sports pages (or the crime reports), here's the latest: In the past two weeks, three different Blazer players have been arrested: co-captains Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire for possession of marijuana and Ruben Patterson for an assault on his wife.

The charges against Patterson were dropped after his wife changed her story, but it's clear that an incident occurred. Stoudamire, meanwhile, is already charged with possession of more than a pound of marijuana that was found in his house by police.

Now we don't rate marijuana possession as a major crime against humanity, but these are the straws breaking the backs of Blazer supporters. Wallace routinely leads the NBA in technical fouls and boorish behavior. Much of the team was caught on camera acting like rich, thuggish louts during a kids' Christmas party a year ago. Past Blazers like J.R. Rider were in and out of trouble with the law. The team is known around the country as the Jail Blazers.

Get rid of them. Get rid of general manager Bob Whitsitt. Get us a team we can root for, because we certainly can't root for the Blazers anymore.