Rural Wisconsin community braces for 3 school closures
ANTIGO, Wis. (AP) — A small, rural district in northern Wisconsin is the latest to close schools as many grapple with declining enrollment.
The Unified School District of Antigo is closing Pleasant View Elementary School and two other elementary schools in an effort to consolidate school buildings and realign grade levels, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
The decision comes as the Antigo district’s population declined from 2,578 in 2008, to 2,331 this year, presenting financial challenges.
It’s a trend rural districts statewide are struggling to manage. In central Wisconsin, Merrill and Wisconsin Rapids’ districts have closed elementary schools in recent years.
The other two schools to close in the Antigo district are Spring Valley and Crestwood elementary schools, which are both located outside the city.
Donna Smith, a principal in the district, said the consolidation will help district officials provide more equal services to students, such as special education programs that were absent in the rural schools.
Colleen Berkhahn, Pleasant View’s principal, said the district has been thoughtful about the process, but it’s still difficult to see schools close.
“Schools are more than just the brick and mortar,” Berkhahn said. “There’s so many things inside of them that make them a community and a family within themselves.”
Scott Hendrickson has taught at the elementary school for almost 30 years. He’s retiring as Pleasant View shutters this year.
“There’s a lot of emotion,” he said. “When I drive into the driveway (of the school) I almost feel like I’m driving into my own home.”
Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, http://www.wpr.org