Vote Could be Soon for Byers/ Petrolia School Consolidation

    For months now the Byers and Petrolia School Districts have been meeting to talk about the consolidation of the two districts. Byers approved the consolidation agreement Tuesday, and Thursday night the Petrolia School Board is meeting to vote on it.
    The Petrolia Superintendent says its pretty much a formality and all that's left is the vote to set the election for voters in both districts. That election will be held May 12th. Most Byers residents have known consolidation was inevitable, but that does not making losing their 112 year old school any easier to accept.
    Like many rural schools, the enrollment at Byers has been shrinking year by year, to this year's 43 students. But to this community, it's not so much a small school, but a large family.
    "We are a big family here even with the small with the small classes that we have," said Cynthia Hooper, teacher at Byers.
    For the last 25 years Hooper has taught Byers children and watched her son attend and graduate here. She says it'll be sad to see a place with so many memories close.
    "It's something that has to be done. So you know we just have to go with the flow, we have to do with what has to be done. It's not something we'd like to see happen, we just have to go on," said Hooper.
    Byers residents and teachers know this is what's best for the students who need the advantages larger schools provide.
    "The consolidation really is the best thing for Byers and Petrolia and for the students, so in that regard I am happy yes, although it is still a sad occasion that Byers won't be in an existence next year," said Kim Childs, Byers Superintendent.
    The agreement states there will be co valedictorians and salutatorians for two years, Byers employees would be considered for any open positions in Petrolia, and the Byers school building will be turned over to the city.
    "Under the circumstances I couldn't be prouder the way students and teachers have conducted themselves and the tenor of the school, the climate of the school is good i think under the circumstances," said Childs.
    And when the doors of their old school close most students know it will open new doors and opportunities in the future.
    If Petrolia does not approve the agreement the Byers School will still close next year and students will attend schools of their choice until state education commissioner and clay county commissioners draft an agreement.

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