Students will not be attending Chantry Elementary School in Malvern next school year.
The East Mills Community School District will shut down the building as part of a strategy to address declining enrollment and financial troubles, the school board decided Tuesday during a special meeting.
Superintendent Paul Croghan said the district plans to ask voters to approve an expanded physical plant and equipment levy in September as well as a school bond sometime next year. The board will confirm placing the levy request on the ballot at its July meeting.
The state allows the district to ask voters for a levy of $1.34 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. Such a levy would bring in nearly $4 million for the district over 10 years, which could be used to repay a revenue bond.
The school district has been working its way through a planning process for months, but Tuesday’s action confirmed the closing of Chantry for now. The next step will be asking for the levy, followed by a school bond campaign for further facility renovations.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” Croghan said. “We started this conversation back in December.”
Having students in one elementary building is projected to create savings by reducing staff positions, utility bills and transportation costs. An analysis by Iowa Schoolhouse Construction & Planning Services projected $80,000 in savings for the 2014-15 school year resulting from closing the school.
However, Chantry’s doors may reopen as the district moves toward creating an all-grades campus at the site of East Mills High School in Malvern. Croghan said that would require an $11.5 million school bond.
“A district our size is best suited for a one-building campus,” he said.
While the initial costs are higher than the other proposal under consideration – renovating Nishna Valley Elementary School in Hastings to be an all-grades campus – Croghan said the district believes it would be cheaper in the long run to be based in Malvern.
“We’re trying to still do our homework in that process,” he said.
The district’s overarching goal, he said, is to use its financial resources as efficiently as possible.
Scenarios developed by Iowa Schoolhouse Construction & Planning Services outline different options available to the school board depending on the success of the proposed bond issue. All of those options assume voters will approve the physical plant and equipment levy this fall.
If the bond issue falls significant short of exceeding the 60 percent approval required, the consultant recommended the district consolidate its schools to Nishna Valley, which could be renovated using the levy funds. If the vote is close but unsuccessful, the district could tread water and try again to pass a bond, according to the report.
If the bond is approved, students in preschool through fourth grade could, according to the scenarios presented, return to Chantry with the rest of the district attending Nishna Valley while the existing middle and high school was converted into an all-grades campus.
Eventually, Chantry and Nisha Valley would be disposed of by the district if the bond passes. Otherwise, if the bond fails, Chantry and the junior and senior high school building would face the chopping block.
The East Mills Community School District was created in 2011 when the Malvern and Nishna Valley school districts reorganized. The original districts began whole-grade sharing in 2007, with high-schoolers in Malvern, middle-schoolers in Hastings and elementary students staying in their respective districts.