Classes wind down at Newark School
NEWARK TOWNSHIP Memories of school days gone by fill the walls of Newark Elementary as the small rural school prepares for its last-ever day of classes Thursday.
Black and white photos of staff and student events adorn a bulletin board at the entrance, including a sixth-grade class picture from 1966-67.
Under Tuesday's afternoon sunshine, students from 4k through fourth grade rotated outside between stations including a dunk tank, bounce houses and an obstacle course. It was the last of the annual end-of-the-school-year "field day" for students, who scrambled about in clothes wet from water-related activities.
"I don't like that they're closing down Newark school," said fourth-grader Indie Pautsch, taking a break from dancing to the Village People song "YMCA." "I have been here since kindergarten, and I want my sisters to experience all of it."
Indie has five younger sisters—three at Newark and two still at home. She said they plan to go to Brodhead schools next year.
"I'll miss this school when it's gone," she said.
While staff and parents shuffled students from stations on the playground, workers from Badgerland Movers unloaded a semi truck full of wheeled carts to the gym.
The one-hallway school dedicated Nov. 22, 1959, will close after the school year ends Thursday.
The newly elected Parkview District School Board voted in May to close Newark. That came after an April referendum in which voters denied spending $5 million for an addition to Orfordville Elementary School that would have allowed Newark and Footville elementary schools to close.
About 100 students fill Newark's classrooms. The 4k through second-graders will go to Footville next year while third- and fourth-graders will go to Orfordville. Some families have opted to apply for open enrollment to surrounding districts, though it's unknown how many will leave for sure.
One second-grade boy, for example, said he's on a waiting list to attend Brodhead schools.
Superintendent Steve Lutzke has said all Newark teachers will be reassigned to Footville and Orfordville, though support staff will be reduced by three positions.
The board has hired an appraiser in preparations to sell the Newark building.
"We're sad, obviously," said building director Vicki Neal, who has taught first grade at Newark for 15 years. "We do love our school. It's so small, and we love all the kids."
Moving to Footville, which has two floors, will be different because she won't be able to watch her first-graders move up through fourth grade, Neal said.
A community open house Friday night drew families young and old who have passed through Newark's hall.
"It's a pretty close-knit family here," said Kristina Uppenkamp, whose son and daughter are in 4k and Kindergarten. "This is my first year here, and I already know all the kids names, all the teachers and a lot of the parents.
"That's what's going to be missed moving to a little bit bigger school."
Both of Uppenkamp's kids will attend Footville in fall.
"I'm hoping a lot of that transfers over—just the feel here," she said.
Parents and teachers will start merging the two parent-teacher organizations by keeping two sets of officers next year. Uppenkamp will serve as the vice president for the Newark community.
Teachers watching students glide down a water slide into a pool talked about upcoming changes and how they hope to keep that small-school feeling.
Second-grade teacher Jeanette Danielson has received a couple calls from the teachers she will be working with in fall, which is a good step, she said.
It will take time for the Newark community to heal over the school closure, said third-grade teacher Wendy Cramer.
"I don't think there's anybody saying this isn't going to work," she said. "Everybody's going in saying we want to make this work."