Chapman School will be closing at the end of the school year.
At its meeting Monday night, the Northwest Public Schools Board of Education voted 4-2, with board members Mike Shafer and Karl Quandt voting no, to close the school. Advisory board member Becky Rosenlund also voted yes.
The reasons for closing Chapman centered around the roughly $20,000 per-student cost and the fact the school didn’t show substantial growth in enrollment in recent years. The decision comes a little more than three years since the Northwest board voted in December 2016 to close Chapman. It later voted to keep the school open as a K-5 facility.
Board member Bret Mader said that over the years, the efficiency of the Northwest district has been scrutinized and the board has continually evaluated its district budget, option student enrollment and efficiencies at individual building sites.
Bret Mader said one topic that has continually been discussed is the high per-student cost at Chapman. The reason this has been discussed by multiple boards over the years is because the per-student cost is nearly double that of the other Northwest feeder schools.
“When the Northwest Board of Education voted to keep the Chapman facility open in 2017, it was to give the district the opportunity to fill the building to capacity,” he said. “It was discussed at that meeting that building efficiency would constantly be reviewed for progress.”
Bret Mader added there were advertising efforts from both the Northwest district and the Save Chapman Committee to increase enrollment at Chapman and fill the building, but that the efforts were ultimately not successful.
He said that those opposed to closing Chapman School have said that the school’s high-needs students may struggle without smaller class sizes and may “fall through the cracks.” However, district administrators have assured him and the rest of the board that there are advantages to these students being in larger classes and that the needs of these students will continue to be addressed by the district.
Bret Mader said in situations where a one-on-one education setting is needed, the district will continue to provide it and the level of education will not decrease.
“There is no doubt there will be struggles,” he said. “But the Northwest administration and the board of education will do all we can to improve the education of Chapman students and to transition into our other buildings.”
Board President Dan Leiser said that after he left last week’s special meeting, one of his biggest concerns was how Chapman students would be affected by moving to a different building, specifically the school’s special needs students.
Leiser said that in talking with Superintendent Jeff Edwards and other administrators, he was told that the paraeducators at Chapman will remain in the district and will follow the students they are currently helping.
“This is not an easy decision,” he said. “Nobody up here wants to be up here, but we feel it is the best decision for the board to close the Chapman facility.”
Zach Mader said his concern leaving last week’s meeting was whether the district can handle the Chapman students at its other three feeder schools. District administration assured him it can and that they will be better served at these schools.
“I don’t like this, but I think it is best for all of our district,” he said. “I have been sitting around for the past week and it has been a very tough week. I do think this district will be better if consolidation happens.”
Zach Mader said he feels the Northwest district will make it through the Chapman School closure and move forward in a positive way that will benefit all students.
Quandt said he opposed closing Chapman School due to concerns about how much the district would actually save.
“The potential savings stated is $800,000, but the true savings is unknown as of now,” he said. “It could be a little less or it could be a lot less. My fear is taking this big chunk and not exactly knowing what our savings would be.”
Quandt said he was also concerned about whether the district has a plan in place for the future use of the Chapman School building. He said that he feels the right thing to do is to turn the building over to the village of Chapman. However, the village may decide the cost of insuring the building, utilities and/or its upkeep is too high and Northwest would be stuck with an empty, unoccupied building for which it has no real purpose.
Shafer said he, too, did not support closing Chapman School. He would only support closing the school if a consolidated school was built on the north side of the district.
Also Monday, the Northwest board:
— Voted 6-0, with Rosenlund also voting yes, to accept the resignation of teacher Brian Mohr effective immediately. Mohr is charged with 11 counts of possession of child pornography, each of which is a Class 2A felony.
— Voted 5-1, with Shafer voting no and Rosenlund voting yes, to approve a reduction of six full-time equivalent (FTE) elementary positions.
— Voted 6-0, with Rosenlund also voting yes, to approve offering a temporary early retirement program and policy effective until Aug. 31.