Lime Springs school to close —Preschool will move to Spring Ahead Learning Center

By Marcie Klomp
On a vote of 4-1, Howard-Winneshiek School Board members voted to close the Lime Springs school. Duane Bodermann was the only member to vote against the recommendation from Supt. John Carver.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, it was generally expected the school would close. During the district’s weekly update, Carver has been explaining how $750,000 in cuts and reductions need to be made by 2018. In the most recent update he admitted he would recommend that all operations in Elma cease at the end of the 2014-15 school year and that selling of the building be explored. “Also it will be recommended that the fourth grade in Lime Springs be relocated to Cresco and the preschool at Lime Springs remain operational for the 2015-16 school year. The projected savings with these actions is estimated at $250,000,” he stated.

The board agreed with the Lime Springs recommendation, with little conversation.

The main topic of conversation was about Elma.

Board members James Kitchen and Doug Berg, along with Bodermann were not comfortable with closing/selling the Elma building because of the impact it would have on the daycare. That facility is attached to the school proper.

Kitchen started the discussion by talking about community understanding, trust and support. “I’m not sure we have done that,” he said. He didn’t feel the board had talked with the community enough.

Bodermann agreed. “If you are a parent in Elma and you were planning for preschool and now it isn’t there, now what?”
Carver offered, “There have been conversations on this. We have talked about the root cause, which is jobs and people moving away. As far as trying to maintain these things going forward, the district’s resources are dwindling.” Kitchen said, “I agree with you.”

When asked what the district has done for the communities, Carver noted, “We have partnered with economic development and signed up to be a Home Base Iowa community. We have been working on broadband and a housing study. It falls back to economic development and the communities. Some of the these things have to be [resolved].”

Carver continued, “I feel bad for Elma and its leaders. They are trying down there, but from the district’s perspective, we have fewer kids . . . My opinion is they want continued financial support from the district. I am saying the district cannot continue to provide financial support.”

Board president Scott Fortune pointed out, “If we don’t do anything different, in 2018 our school will be bankrupt. We are responsible for taxpayer dollars. That’s the bottom line!”
Berg responded, “I think we are headed in the right direction. I’m just asking to give Elma a time to discuss it.”

Karlos McClure offered, “If we’re going to be a responsible district for our students, there comes a time to make financial decisions that allow the district to remain solvent and provide the best education available, even if some of us might not like it.”

Berg added, “I dont’ disagree. For courtesy sake, let’s give them another meeting.” McClure said, “To me, there has been ample opportunity there.”

Throughout discussions Kitchen said several times his vote will probably be to accept the recommendation, but he wanted more time.

As it stands, no decision was made on Elma. A special board meeting will be held on Jan. 26, when a vote will be held. Before that, board members will be talking with leaders from Elma, including Tom Platte and Bruce Weigel, who also attended the board meeting.

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