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Parkview moves toward closing Footville, Newark schools

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GINA R. HEINE
October 11, 2011
— The Parkview School District is moving toward a plan to close Footville and Newark elementary schools after this school year.

All elementary students would attend Orfordville Elementary, where portable classrooms would be built to accommodate the extra students. Sixth-graders would move up to the junior high school.


School board President Troy Knudson voiced preliminary support for the plan Monday at a meeting of the long-range planning committee. The committee has been studying options in light of declining enrollment.


“I think that puts us in a much stronger position for improving our services here, and I think it brings our district together rather than constantly fighting this divide,” he said.


If the community would support a referendum down the road, the district could add permanent additions to Orfordville, he said. Last month, the group heard a $9.26 million estimate to add 20,000 square feet of classrooms, a new gym and cafeteria to Orfordville, and remodel part of the school.


For now, Knudson said, he believes any plan that includes a referendum won’t pass.


Superintendent Steve Lutzke presented a cost comparison for closing the two outlying schools next year: Closing Footville would save $191,326 while closing Newark would save $161,584. Because of some shared costs, closing both schools would save $306,913.


Business manager Pat Miller also said the district will face a projected deficit of between $150,000 and $300,000 in 2012-13.


“In order to do … what’s best for Parkview, we need to close Newark and Footville on the same day, and that way we’re all here for Parkview,” board member Terry Gerber said. “It’s not a Newark thing, it’s not an Orfordville thing, it’s not a Footville thing.”


Board member Craig Jones agreed with Knudson’s plan, while board member Ed Bell said the only way he could close a school is if both outlying schools are closed at the same time.


Administrators will sketch out details of the proposal for the group’s next meeting Monday, Nov. 14.


Knudson estimated three or four portable classrooms would be needed in Orfordville. Miller presented an estimate of about $500,000 from one modular building company to buy a four-classroom building with restrooms.


The district also could lease the classrooms at a cost of nearly $7,000 per year for five years. If a district plans to keep the classrooms for more than five years, it is usually better to buy the building, Miller said.


Community members who spoke supported the centralized campus idea to bring the divided community together. One mother said she was excited for her son to attend kindergarten at Newark next year, but after hearing Monday’s discussion, she said she’s convinced bringing everyone to Orfordville will provide the best education for her son and all the students.


The people who built a community in Newark can build a community in Orfordville, she said.


Other committee and community members voiced concerns about bringing sixth-graders into contact with high-schoolers, longer bus routes, and having enough safe space at Orfordville for tornados, as well as cafeteria and gym space. One resident worried the board would still seek money down the road to build a new high school.


The district’s official enrollment this fall was 939, down 34 students from last year. The decrease was more than the projected 23, Lutzke said.


The committee also tabled a survey that was going to seek community input on several options. Knudson said he saw a “wonderful mix” of the community members at meetings, and surveys likely would show the expected support for Newark or Footville, along with people who don’t want to spend any money.



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