Footville students won’t be bused to Newark
The decision came after passionate pleas from more than a dozen parents, elected municipal officials and a teacher to keep the Footville students together. About 50 residents attended the regular board meeting that at times showed how divided the district is.
Last year, the board heard similar pleas from the other side of the district as Newark parents asked to keep their small, rural school open. The board voted in December to keep the school open next year.
This time, the board heard from Footville/Orfordville parents affected by the plan to bus nine Footville kids to Newark.
Current projections show two first-grade classes at Footville will have 24 and 25 students while one class at Newark will have 11.
Several speakers suggested the board bus the 11 Newark kids to an empty classroom at Footville so they are not split up. Clay Hammes was the only board member to support that idea.
Residents expressed concerns about the additional time it takes for parents, buses and emergency first responders to get to Newark, as well as the stress created from years of talking about closing an elementary school.
Hammes said enrollment issues at Newark are not new.
“The fact that this isn’t a surprise bothered me, that we have agreed to bus those children, because they’re the ones paying the price,” he said. “I think it’s another short-term, Band-Aid solution to a long-term problem that we failed to address.”
The audience cheered and applauded his motion to rescind the board’s approval to bus Footville students to Newark. His motion failed possibly due to confusion over the wording as board member Ed Bell immediately made a motion to leave class sizes as they are with no busing.
A voice vote was taken, and it appeared to pass, 5-1, with board member Terry Gerber casting the lone ‘no’ vote.
Having 25 first-graders in a classroom is not a good idea, Superintendent Steve Lutzke said.
“I can tell you the administrative team is going to try to find a better solution than leaving 25 in a classroom,” he said.
Lutzke said after the meeting that one possibility might be multi-age classrooms, but added it is too early to speculate.