Memories, tears mark closing of Sinclair Elementary

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom Kids attending the Farewell Open House at Sinclair Elementary held on Thursday evening got a bonus  — they were allowed to take hope surplus items of gym equipment.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom
Kids attending the Farewell Open House at Sinclair Elementary held on Thursday evening got a bonus — they were allowed to take hope surplus items of gym equipment.

By Trudy Balcom

tbalcom@rawlinstimes.com

SINCLAIR — When people talk about Sinclair Elementary School, the first word that seems to come to mind is “family.”

“It was so small, it was like a family. We did everything together. The teachers were close, the staff was close with the teachers; we were all close with the kids. We formed strong bonds,” said Gayle Shaw, a former teacher at Sinclair.

“It was wonderful.”

Shaw and other former teachers and students, parents and community members gathered at the school for a Farewell Open House conducted Thursday night. The adults gathered around scrapbooks of photos, chatted and shared memories. For some, generations of their family had attended the school, which opened in 1937.

The kids attending the event seemed the most unaffected emotionally. They played soccer out on the school grounds in between raindrops. They ate cake and other goodies and eagerly sorted through the balls and other gym equipment the school offered free for the taking.

The Carbon County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees voted to close the school at its meeting March meeting. District officials cited the more than $30 million statewide funding cuts to education and disparities in programming and test scores between Sinclair and Rawlins Elementary as the reasons for closing the school.

Sinclair enrolled about 24 children in grades K-5 this past school year.

CCSD1 Business Director David Horner previously said the District would save around $100,000 annually in closing Sinclair.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom Gayle Shaw, former teacher at Sinclair Elementary poses with her former students. From the left: Jayson Black, a freshman at Rawlins High School, Shaw, Levi Bezold, a freshman at Rawlins High School, and Mikki Vigil, whose son will start Kindergarten in fall.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom
Gayle Shaw, former teacher at Sinclair Elementary poses with her former students. From the left: Jayson Black, a freshman at Rawlins High School, Shaw, Levi Bezold, a freshman at Rawlins High School, and Mikki Vigil, whose son will start Kindergarten in fall.

The closure of Sinclair Elementary, the last of CCSD1’s small community schools, did not come without protest. Parents and community members showed vigorous support for the school, packing the Board of Trustees meetings. They said that the small school setting offered their children something that could not be found at Rawlins Elementary.

Mikki Vigil, a former Sinclair student, attended the open house.

“My son is going to be in Kindergarten. I wanted him to go here. We had a good little community,” she said.

Sinclair is the fourth community school in CCSD1 to become the victim of school consolidation. Mountain View and Pershing Elementary Cchools, in Rawlins, closed in 2011. Bairoil School closed in 2014.

CCSD1 Superintendent Fletcher Turcato and some members of the School Board of Trustees expressed hope that the school could re-open some time in the future, citing the possible growth that wind energy could bring to the community.

Some attending the farewell open house expressed fear that the school district would tear the building down. Turacato previously told Sinclair town officials at a meeting March 31 that the district plans to hold onto the building, but “mothball it.”

The building will be maintained, and could be leased it if an interested party stepped forward. If the District were to sell the building, they must repay the state funds used to renovate the building in 2014.

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