Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

We agree with the school board's decision Tuesday to buy as many as four used modular buildings and install them at Brooklyn as kindergarten classrooms and a cafeteria and music room.

This isn't the ideal solution, but we believe it is the best option.

Certainly it is the option that requires the least amount of student shuffling. Only the kindergarten classes will move - the rest of the grade levels will remain where they are.

Nor will the cost of the modulars force the school district to cut employees or programs. District officials also are confident they could sell the modulars if they become superfluous in the future.

Critics say the district instead should create space for kindergartners inside Brooklyn by moving third-graders from that school to South Baker Elementary.

But that would require that sixth-graders, who now attend South Baker, move to either Baker Middle School or to the former North Baker Elementary.

Opponents of the modulars have cited the North Baker option in particular, pointing out that there are vacant classrooms in that building.

Everyone seems to agree that Baker's kindergartners should be moved from the wing at Baker High School where their classrooms have been since 2009, to Brooklyn Elementary.

There is a dispute, though, about what the 5J District should do to accommodate its youngest students in their new school.

A majority of the board, though, prefers the modular options over segregating a single grade in a building - indeed, one of the benefits of moving the kindergartners to Brooklyn is that they'll be with their closest peers, the first- through third-graders. That's a better situation for teachers, as well, since it allows them to collaborate more closely on issues that K-3 students have in common.

We think it's more appropriate for sixth-graders to share a school with fourth- and fifth-graders, as they do now at South Baker, than to be housed with seventh- and eighth-graders at the Middle School, or at North Baker, which now is home to three alternative high school programs.

Moving sixth-graders to either BMS or North Baker would be less expensive than buying and installing modulars at Brooklyn.

But we don't believe the savings would outweigh the disadvantages of moving sixth-graders out of South Baker. And, as we mentioned, the higher cost for the modulars will not force the district to make any academic sacrifices.