More than a week has passed since the RSU 20 Board of Directors approved the proposed closure of Frankfort Elementary School as a cost-saving measure, and we suspect the hard feelings that came on the heels of that decision won’t be going away any time soon. But neither will the financial problems plaguing the district.

The reality is a hard one, and it’s one Superintendent Bruce Mailloux and other RSU 20 officials have warned the public about previously, particularly regarding the looming loss of more than $900,000 in federal stimulus money that had been received in recent years. Talks of potential elementary school closures have come up in recent years, too, so the board’s vote to move ahead with the process of closing a school should not have come as a surprise to anyone. An unpleasant reality, yes; a surprise, no.

Mailloux acknowledged this week that some Frankfort residents may feel as though they are being “picked on,” but based on the information school officials used to decide which school should close (remaining debt service at each school, maintenance needs, geographic location and capacity, among others), we feel the decision was made in a logical way.

But just as Mailloux is asking the public for patience and trust in a difficult time, we are hopeful school officials will offer the same to the public, particularly to residents of Frankfort. Mailloux said he intends to bring Frankfort parents into the loop when deciding how best to relocate their children, and we hope those parents take him up on that invitation while also continuing to ask all the questions they can about what the closure will mean for their children.

Even with the decision to close the Frankfort school, though the district is still facing a gap of well over $1 million just for the coming budget cycle. We also suspect the economy will not fully recover any time soon, which leaves us wondering what is the plan? The big plan.

The rumor mill is already churning out all sorts of scenarios about what might happen next with RSU 20 schools, so it would benefit both school officials and the community to start talking publicly about what might be coming next.

As we see it, district administrators and the school board members can sponsor austerity measures for the next five or ten years, putting out fires as they break out, or they can start thinking more outside the box about how to provide a great education with much less money.

Even if we don’t know how much less money there will be, it seems inevitable that there will be less money. So now is the time for district leaders to draft a plan and invite the public to come and weigh in on those ideas, and allow them to share a few thoughts of their own. In the meantime, the public needs to be informed about what options the district is considering to close the rest of this year’s budget gap.

All of the possibilities are not yet known, but we do know that good communication results when facts are shared sooner than later, and tough times are better faced in an environment that is not divisive, but supportive.

Even if district officials don’t know exactly what’s coming next, they must know that the next few years, at least, will be all about doing more with less. If more big changes are coming over the next few years, they should outline what those changes will be. Sure, some people will still be upset — but at least they’ll know what might happen next, instead of worrying about things that are possibly not even being considered.

When there is a storm to be weathered, we say there is no better time to face it than the present, and there is no better way to face it than to do it together.

That way, we believe what will come out of these less-than-ideal times is a stronger, more efficient school district.