School board votes unanimously to close Bernard Elementary - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

School board votes unanimously to close Bernard Elementary

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BERNARD (KWWL) -

UPDATE: The Western Dubuque School board voted to close Bernard Elementary at the end of the 2016-17 school year by a vote of 4-0. 

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For more than 50 years, Bernard Elementary has been an important part of this small rural community.

But in recent years, student enrollment has gone down, says district Superintendent, Rick Colpitts.  "Declining enrollment of course is always an issue and that's been the trend at Bernard for some time," he said.

Currently, the pre-kindergarten to 4th grade school has just 31 students. Next year it'll be less.

That's why the Western Dubuque School Board is voting on whether to shut it down.

With less students, operating the school ends up costing more money. "It costs us about $7,000 to 75-hundred dollars per student at the elementary level to educate those kids, but at Bernard, right now it's costing about 14,000 which is about double that," he added.

That becomes a budget problem.

This is something many rural small schools across the country are dealing with, including others right here in eastern Iowa.

North Winneshiek Community School is consolidating with Decorah Schools in about two years.  It's high school closed years ago.

Greene Elementary in Butler County also closed recently.

These school closures affecting their small communities. "Oh it's really tough. That's what makes this so hard, there's so much emotion with any kind of situation you're closing whether that's our situation, or any you see across the state or across the United States," Colpitts said. 

If the school board decides to close Bernard, students will have to attend Cascade Elementary. However, some grades already go there now because their class sizes did not meet the minimum according to the district policy. 

As for the teachers and staff, should the school close, they'll be transferred to other schools or facilities within the district. 

The board meeting is being held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Western Dubuque district offices in Farley.

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