ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Mat-Su Borough School District has proposed closing Trapper Creek Elementary.
The school is on the list of possible cuts as the district tries to fix a $7 million budget gap for next year.
But residents of the small Parks Highway community are fighting to save the school. The building serves 26 students from homes scattered through the birch forest. Home-schoolers play music there. Local citizens vote in classrooms. In an emergency, they take shelter here.
And on Wednesday, the building housed three dozen angry parents and teachers for a politically charged PTA meeting.
April Moore has had three kids through this school. The education is ''top notch,'' she said.
''It is now being penalized instead of rewarded. This community has just as much a right to 'community' as Palmer or Wasilla,'' Moore said.
In addition to closure of the Trapper Creek school, administrators are considering adding a quarter to school lunch prices, cutting per-student book and supply spending and increasing average class size.
The financial situation is such that a March special election to build new elementary schools in Palmer and Wasilla may be put off at least until next fall.
In this more rural corner of the sprawling district, the proposed budget cut would mean busing Trapper Creek students to Talkeetna Elementary, about 30 miles away.
Parents on Wednesday reeled off a list of objections: the long bus ride for young children; a long drive for after-school activities or visits with friends; and a long trip for parents if their children get sick at school.
And Trapper Creek would not just lose a school, people said over and over. It would lose its community center
''It's not just for the students. It's for the whole community,'' parent Mary Smith said.
School officials say the district can't afford to operate a rural school that costs much more, comparatively, than schools in more populated areas.
The school costs the district $468,722 to operate but generates $242,409 in state and Mat-Su Borough funds, according to district statistics.
If Trapper Creek students are bused to Talkeetna, the district will make money, district administrators said.
There are four full-time teachers at Trapper Creek. The district could move one to Talkeetna to compensate for the new students and still come out about $100,000 ahead, district spokeswoman Kim Floyd said.
Administrators say they've tried for years to make Trapper Creek more efficient, proposing a shared principal with Talkeetna, fewer teachers. But parent protests have swayed the school board against most of the changes, Floyd said.
Today, the school can stay open but only if supporters figure out how to run it more cheaply, Floyd said. ''If they want to keep a small hometown school, then it will have to look different than it does today.''
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