Locals speak—Consensus is ‘Save our small schools’

Steve Johnson, president of Lime Springs Community Club, presented the community’s letter of 
concerns regarding the 
status of the outlying 
elementary buildings.

Steve Johnson, president of Lime Springs Community Club, presented the
community’s letter of
concerns regarding the
status of the outlying
elementary buildings.

By Marcie Klomp

After listening to the vision Howard-Winneshiek Superintendent John Carver has for the district (see accompanying story), locals were allowed to speak their peace during a special work session in Elma on Feb. 20

Since residents got the word, at the last board meeting on Jan. 28, a decision would be made on what to do with LS-C and Elma elementaries, community members of those areas were scrambling.

Elma has been through this process many times in the past 10-15 years, but it was Lime Springs-Chester’s first real scare of losing its elementary.

The Lime Springs Community Club held a meeting on Feb. 12 with locals and Elma representatives to discuss their feelings on the closing and/or merging of the two schools. A letter with many of their concerns was drafted.

Board members had previously received an e-mail copy of the letter but Community Club President Steve Johnson presented them a hard copy. He thanked the board for taking time to read and consider the concerns of the residents. He also encouraged them to speak again with the representatives who had spoke with them in person.

Several issues in the letter included:

• Having a 3, 5, 7, 10-year plan for the district.

• Do a thorough analysis of declining enrollment.

• Parents send their kids to the outlying centers by choice. Without that choice, what is the alternative?

• Look at costs to fix major repairs. Minor repairs can wait.

Other community members, mostly from Elma, then had a chance to express their thoughts on the outlying centers. The concerns from Elma parallelled those from Lime Springs-Chester.

Rose Nibaur said all three of her children attended Elma and were doing well in school. She conceded, “I will feel sad about this school closing, but consider going to Davis Corners.” She didn’t like the idea of young children being on the bus for 40 or more minutes.

Nibaur said with talk of Riceville school closing, “Davis Corners may bring in Riceville to the district.” Conclusion, she said, “If Elma can travel to Cresco, then Cresco can travel to Davis Corners.”

Tom Platte observed if a school was built at Davis Corners, businesses should also be urged to build there. He added, “People would be disappointed to know [previous boards] haven’t taken care of the outlying centers. They are a valuable service to the district and county.”

Platte was also concerned about the impact moving the Elma school would have on the Early Childhood Center. “We’d suffer, going to Davis Corners.” He said there would be less income while students are shuttled back to Elma. Usually the students walk directly to the daycare area.

Rainell Johnson stuck up for the education her son received in Elma. “I feel my son excelled at Elma. Since going to Cresco there has been positive and negative.”

She explained she was all for technology but struggles with the amount of time her son plays on the iPad. “He’s on it all the time.” She also felt he was getting forgotten in Cresco.

Carver suggested the iPad is the same as the comic books he adored as a child. He said his dad took them away from him to make him go outside. He also said being a good gamer could help him in adulthood as the military is having men and women fly planes in the Mideast while sitting in a room in California.

Les Opat stated he went to Elma and Lime Springs-Chester elementaries. His children graduated from Crestwood. “You’re doing an excellent job. We are concerned about what is happening. [It’s not about] Lime Springs, Elma, Cresco. Our responsibility is for the future of our kids. The schools are getting old, and it’s time for a change.” He did say the board needed a 5-, 10- and 15-year plan. Tearing down a building without a plan was no good.

As a former teacher he stated education is very important. “Excellent teachers and excellent curriculum equals excellent students. But I have yet to hear an excellent building will make an excellent student.”

Addressing the board, Erin Ludwig asked, “What will our district look like in 10 years. The reality is we have declining enrollment.” She cited the good things to offer in the outlying centers such as Lime Springs Beef and the new learning center in Lime Springs and the updating of the locker and other new businesses in Elma, along with the wellness center.

“You need to market the communities along with the school district.” She continued, “After 20 years of uncertainty, we are finally getting a vision. We need the board to verbally commit to Lime Springs and Elma.” The 20 years she is referring to is the number of years Elma has been on the verge of closing, which is disconcerting to townfolk and parents.

Elma maintenance man Denny O’Brien was concerned about the town. “I hate to see the school close. I’ve seen a lot of changes. I’ve seen a lot of houses being filled with younger families.” He was afraid of what would happen to Elma if the school closed. “When the school closed in Alta Vista, it almost folded the town.”

Carver spoke for the board saying they heard what was said and would take it into account when making a decision on how to proceed. The recommendation was to be made at the Feb. 25, which was rescheduled until the next day due to a sub state game in Cedar Falls. To find what direction the school board gave to the superintendent go to the Herald’s website at limespringsherald.wordpress.com, or Facebook page and wait for a complete article next week.

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