A pair of rural schools could be closing in one area school district to help deal with a $500,000 budget deficit.
It's a situation that schools around the state have faced, but the Parkview School District said it is running out of other options in this economy. The district had suggested closing one elementary school as a cost-saving measure to help plug a projected $500,000 deficit and also because of declining enrollment.
But when the school board met Monday to deal with the difficult decision, board members voted 4-3 in favor of a plan that would consolidate three elementary schools down to one and build an addition on the largest school in Orfordville to accommodate the extra students. That decision signals the closing of both outlying Newark and Footville Elementary schools, whether a referendum on the proposal passes or fails.
"We've lost about 160 kids over the last 10 years," said Parkview Superintendent Steve Lutzke. "They are not all elementary kids, but we do have room in two of our schools to accommodate the kids that are in three schools."
The decision will be hard for teachers and families, who said that Newark is a special place.
"It feels like one big family out here," said teacher Vicki Neal. "When you come to work you don't feel like you are going to work, you feel like it is your second home."
Heather Harnack's son Chase is in third grade at Newark and is diabetic.
"He went into diabetic shock last week and the staff was phenomenal," said Harnack. "I could not do it. I could not be a full-time parent and have him be there without that staff because I couldn't do it without them."
Some families had argued that if the board were to close one school, they needed to close them both.
"Personally, I think that's the best option to unify the district and get everyone in one city," said Mary Kilar, president of the Newark Parent-Teacher Organization.
The community will have a chance to vote on the $3.8 million referendum in April. If it passes, Newark and Footville would likely remain open for another year until the addition was built, or the board may choose to close one during construction. If the referendum fails, the schools would likely close next year and students would be moved to portable buildings purchased for Orfordville Elementary. There may be further discussion about it all when the board meets again at a regular meeting in December.