GIVE RIVERIA 1 YEAR BEFORE CLOSING IT DOWN

March 06, 2002 12:00 am

The La Grande School Board should not get in a big rush to board up the windows and nail the doors shut at Riveria Elementary School.

The board plans to close the school, and with good reason. The 90-year-old building on North Second Street would require some major,expensive work to make it structurally sound and energy-efficient.

Most agree the old building must go, but the question is when.

The school board is looking at proposals to either close it at the end of the current year or wait until June 2002.

The school districts facilities study committee is recommending the district wait a year. So is Superintendent Dan Arriola.

Their proposal makes sense. In 1996, Eastern Oregon University moved rapidly to close Ackerman School, which had been a major teacher-training facility on campus for 60 years and a place where La Grande students could attend. Many people were shocked and dismayed. School officials should have learned something from that. Riveria School should not be handled in that way.

The district has a wonderful opportunity next year to honor the major contributions that the neighborhood school, its teachers and staff have made in northwest La Grande through the years. The theme in 2002-03 could be Celebrate Riveria. Former students and staff members could be invited to the school for a weekend to roam the halls and reflect on some happy memories.

A gala final ceremony could be conducted in May 2003 to send students off to other La Grande schools and put closure on the Riveria era. The transition to eventually closing the school could be helped along by placing next falls Riveria kindergarten class into other schools.

The school district could also spend next year redefining school boundaries. Little will be gained by giving Riveria the bums rush and sending its students and staff packing this June.

SEARCHERS DID THEIR BEST

The outcome was not unexpected.

The body of Kate Svitek was discovered Monday by ski patrollers on Mount Bachelor, about 300 feet from where Svitek was last seen Feb. 9.

Svitek, 22, was snowboarding when she vanished. Her body was discovered buried in several feet of snow next to a tree.

The tragedy is a reminder of the need for skiers and snowboarders to exercise great caution in winter blizzard conditions. They need to stay close to one another and avoid going out on the mountain when conditions become severe.

More than 60 volunteer and professional searchers combed the area for more than 10 days. Although everyone was saddened by Mondays discovery, Sviteks family and friends can take heart in the overwhelming response of complete strangers who searched long and hard to find her.