As a new resident of Sun Valley, I count my family very lucky to be here. In doing so, I must pay homage and give thanks to the individuals, families and patrons who have developed and preserved this extraordinary area.

In that vein, I would like to voice support for the recent announcement by the Hemingway School that establishes participation—loosely defined here as previous attendance by a family or student at the school—as an evaluator that trumps geography in the process of filling spots in the classrooms. While it is probable that my child will ultimately not be able to continue at Hemingway in the future due to this policy, I firmly believe in fealty to those who have generated the waves rather than to those who have ridden them in, and thus, I believe that those families that have supported the school longer deserve priority.

The local school community in Sun Valley/Ketchum has grown and been strengthened through the support of families inside and outside of the Hemingway district, so it is important for the school, like any local institution, to ensure that those families reap the benefit of their choice, commute and good sense to enroll in Hemingway before some of us even got to the area. A commitment to participation as an equally relevant factor as geography is something that needs to get more attention and support in any community that seeks to protect and nurture its culture; it is an essential element in properly recognizing and valuing the individuals and families that have made this area so attractive to others.

There are always choices to be made, and our mandate should be to develop solutions that are just, respectful and can be applied equally now and in the future. Valuing participation over geography meets that mandate. As this school zone fills up, participation will still be a viable metric even when Hemingway is full of in-zone families. At some point, it is likely that there will be too many locals, and for those families with multiple kids, the idea of participation is a metric that might enable their child to enter Hemingway.

Ultimately, in this growing community, it won’t be long before the geographic evaluator will be the predominant qualification, and the traditional notion that local schools are for those most local will naturally prevail. But for the next few years and in our quest to adhere to the equally important concepts of justice and respect, children of families already enrolled from outside the zone should be recognized for their participation and rewarded for their longevity and commitment equally with their in-zone brethren.

It is not just or healthy for a community to supplant its own members when those members have helped it grow. Hemingway is a great resource and it has been the work of people from many areas that have made it so. Let’s respect the work that has come before us. I just wish we had moved here sooner!

Susan Wrede lives in Sun Valley.

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