Change is difficult. When it involves children and their families, it’s even harder.

That’s why the decision to close 60th Street and 66th Street elementary schools and Niagara Middle School, and move sixth grade to the elementary buildings, is such a traumatic issue for the entire community. And that’s why we devoted three days of front-page coverage to the issue, as well as reporting on the decision itself.

Enrollment in the schools is down because of families leaving the city and the operation of the Niagara Charter School as an alternative for parents. The news that more than 100 classrooms in the Falls system are sitting idle made the move to close buildings in the cash-strapped district almost a formality. It was the decision of which buildings to close and how to reconfigure the system that was tricky.

We feel the Falls School Board made the best of a difficult situation. The population of the two elementary schools will be housed at what is now Niagara Middle, a relatively new building that is in good condition.

Other district functions will move into the two elementary buildings. That will allow for the closing of even more, and older, district buildings. Over the long haul, that will save utility and maintenance costs.

It could also mean the sale of some or all of those older properties, providing additional, albeit one-shot, revenue for the system.

More pain will be felt by the school district work force. Some 40 teachers and 23 of the support staff will lose their jobs in the plan.

And it gets worse.

Depending on the amount of state aid the schools will receive next year, the teacher layoffs could reach 100. It would help close a budget gap that is now estimated at nearly $3 million.

It’s all in an effort to maintain the long-standing policy of holding the line on school property taxes, a policy we endorse.

The cash squeeze makes it clear that board members have a lot of hard choices yet to make. The wisdom and sensitivity used in the school closing decision will come in handy.

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