Future Shock

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Welcome back to the Evening Report, this Tuesday, September 1, 2020.

Now it’s time for North Shore News, with correspondent Robert Dalbertson.

Robert?

[Reporter on location]

Thanks, Cassie. This breaking story, just in: The historic town of Ipswich, Massachusetts has now made history in a new way. As the fall 2020 school semester began today, it became evident that Ipswich has managed to become the first town in history to see 100% of its students choice out to other districts.

[Cut to interview video]

“We didn’t really think it would come to this,” says K-through-12 social studies teacher Elmo Trinker. “Classes began shrinking back around 2015, when the override failed the second time in a row, and everyone seemed happy for a while. Too many kids in each class was one of our problems back then.”

“But let’s face it,” says K-through-12 math teacher Trina Pascuelo. “When we got down to just math, science, English, and social studies, there were lots of reasons for families to choice their kids out.”

“Eventually we only had enough students in the whole town for one English class,” says K-through-12 English teacher Lonnie Guggenfez. “It was a little weird trying to teach five-year-olds to read by going through The Grapes of Wrath, but what choice did I have? I couldn’t ask those three seniors to write persuasive essays on See Spot Run.”

How many students were enrolled last year?

“Six,” Trinker reports. “We started the year with eight, but the Flellker family finally got their short sale and moved to Rowley. And Jennifer Kronston won the lottery in January, so she was able to move little Jamie over to Pingree.”

[Reporter on location]

I caught up with the Flellker family at their new home in Rowley, and asked about their short sale.

[Cut to interview video]

“Well, our property values just kept going down,” Herman Flellker says. “Once they cut down the languages and arts and sports programs, families weren’t moving in. The larger businesses, like EBSCO and BioLabs, couldn’t recruit new employees. When those big guys moved out of town, I guess there weren’t enough tax dollars coming in to fix the roads or the street lights, or dredge up the police boat after it rusted out and sank at the wharf last year. We needed better education for our children, but when we put our house on the market, potential buyers in smaller cars kept falling into the pothole in front of our place. Finally, a couple senior citizens pulled up in a 1985 Ford LTD, and it was big enough to straddle the pit.”

[Reporter on location]

Meanwhile, up in Rowley, the next town to the north, times are good. I visited with Caroline Kennedy, who recently left her post as U.S. Ambassador to Japan and began her term as a member of the Rowley Board of Selectmen.

[Cut to interview video]

“You know, I want to, you know, live someplace that’s really, you know, committed to education, and growing, and, you know, building for the future, and, you know, Rowley is, you know, really that kind of place.”

[Reporter on location]

I will say this, Cassie. My grandmother lived in Rowley, we used to come up here as kids to visit her, and the Rowley of today is nothing like the Rowley I remember. Last year, they opened a brand-new theatrical venue in the heart of town, then they christened a new world-class art museum, now they’ve landed Microsoft’s new East Coast headquarters, and of course they just opened that beautiful junior-league football stadium where the Patriots will be playing during their latest five-year suspension.

[Anchor in studio]

Robert, before you go, just one question: Now that there are no students left, will the Ipswich school district be letting all of its teachers go?

[Reporter on location]

I spoke with the new Ipswich Town Manager. He’s led the campaign every year for several years against increases in taxes for schools. He says he’s outraged that the town is spending money on salaries for the four remaining faculty members in the district when they don’t even have any students to teach, and he’s organizing a citizen’s petition to lay them off and turn the Ipswich school buildings into bowling alleys, to draw young people back to the area.

[Anchor in studio]

Thanks, Robert, for this fascinating report. And good luck getting home.

[Reporter on location]

Thanks, Cassie, good timing for wrapping this up. They’re winching my VW out of the pothole right now.

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