Emmons will lose middle school

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2003

EMMONS &045; Emmons Middle School will be closed at the end of the 2002-2003 school year, the Glenville-Emmons school board decided in a 5-1 vote Monday night.

&uot;This has been one of the toughest decisions I have made as a school board member,&uot; said Todd Nelson of Emmons, the chairman of the board. &uot;When a decision is almost too big for you, or even the community, you have to really decide what you are on the board for. It’s not to be in charge of finances, or to be in charge of facilities, or people. It’s to make the educational opportunities for our students the best they can be.&uot;

After weeks of agonizing over whether to close the Emmons school or the Glenville Elementary School, the board made a series of decisions Monday night before a crowd of around 300 in the Emmons school gymnasium. They started by agreeing to close the Emmons school and move its grades over to the Glenville Elementary building, but they also made decisions to accept and decline parts of a long-term plan proposed by Superintendent Todd Chessmore.

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Chessmore said his plan would last for the next &uot;one to 20 years.&uot;

&uot;The need to provide quality educational opportunities for all students of the district is the main rationalization behind this proposal,&uot; Chessmore read from a written statement.

The plan called for the closure of the Emmons school at the end of the school year; working with the Lake Mills school district to craft an open-enrollment plan which is simple for students who wish to leave the G-E district; using or selling the Emmons school building for a community purpose; and talking with the Northwood-Kensett School District about open-enrollment agreements.

The board did not accept some parts of Chessmore’s agreement, but are expected to work on the long-term plan in the next few meetings.

The district needed to close one of the schools because of declining enrollment and funding shortfalls. The district’s high school is located in Glenville.

Dave Olson, the Emmons Middle School principal, also made a proposal to the board. He felt the district could leave the school open one more year through budget cuts. But he also set a time-line for addressing the needs of the district. This included developing a 5-10 year strategic plan by September, passing a referendum in the fall, building a single K-12 school financed by a bond referendum in 2005 and moving in for the 2006 school year.

When the board voted to close the Emmons school, a handful of crowd members voiced their opinions. Some were critical of the board; others were supportive.

Paul Moore read to the board from a letter from someone in the district saying that any decision made by the board would be supported.

Some agreed with the board’s decision, saying earlier proposals of Midwest Management Resources, the consulting group the district hired to research and advise on the building issues, and of Chessmore to close the Glenville Elementary School, were not financially sound.

School board member Dave Claussen said he had been very troubled by the pressure some citizens have put on the board, which has included harsh words and threats.

&uot;Some people have lost touch with the real issue, which is what is best for our students,&uot; he said. Claussen said the district has to realize that they have a great school system.

&uot;The study by MMR said it best,&uot; he said. &uot;It said that student pride is very abundant and visible.&uot;

After the decisions were made, Chessmore and the board were both honored by the crowd with ovations. A difficult decision behind them, they hope they can look to the future.

Speaking to the crowd about the district, Chessmore said, &uot;You have a really great staff, a great school board, but most especially, you have great kids.&uot;

Claussen said he hopes the board can work to keep the district intact over the next 20 years.

&uot;I think we’ll be Glenville-Emmons Wolverines for many years to come,&uot; he said. &uot;I really feel that.&uot;