Rockland voters will decide the fate of the MacDougal School on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The Regional School Unit 13 board has recommended that the school be closed in an effort to save money. The school has many deficiencies and a proper fix would require a lot more money than taxpayers can afford.

The students who attend the MacDougal School would simply be assigned to another school only one mile away in Rockland.

As the district — like other school systems — tries to grapple with the worst economy in more than 70 years, savings are needed. If Rockland voters refuse to close the MacDougal School, the additional cost of operating it will be borne solely by taxpayers. That cost has been pegged at $363,133.

The district is faced with a gap of about $2.5 million for the 2010-2011 budget between available revenues and projected expenses. Keeping the MacDougal School open would only widen that gap.

People are often emotionally attached to schools. Many Rockland residents either attended the MacDougal School or had their children or grandchildren go through the doors.

But the building has outlived its usefulness. Taxpayers spent $200,000 in 2006 to fix problems with the heating system. Another approximately $100,000 was spent last year to replace the boiler and deal with other problems. An engineering firm estimated last year that the cost to repair all the problems at the MacDougal School would be $2.5 million. For a school that serves only a few more than 100 students that cost is prohibitive.

There will be efficiencies of scale in operating one elementary school in Rockland.

The one drawback is that class sizes will increase. But that is likely to occur anyway because of staff cuts due to the budget crisis.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9 (or Monday, Feb. 8 for people who want to vote absentee) Rockland residents will decide whether to close the MacDougal School or keep it open.

The time has come to close the old school.