Newton Falls Elementary to close

Continued enrollment decline causes building reconfiguration

Tribune Chronicle/ Bob Coupland The Newton Falls Exempted School District Board of Education on Thursday officially closed the elementary school effective at the end of the school year. The action will help the district save money because of a steady decline in enrollment with the loss of 400 students in the past seven years, mostly at the elementary level.

NEWTON FALLS — With the loss of 400 students in the past seven years and an expected steady enrollment decline to continue into the future, the Newton Falls Exempted School District Board of Education on Thursday officially closed the elementary school effective at the end of the school year.

Officials said the closing of the elementary school, along with reduction of 15 teaching and non-teaching positions, is expected to save the district approximately $350,000 annually.

Superintendent Paul Woodard said during a meeting Thursday there will be a building reconfiguration, with grades kindergarten to third, which were housed at the elementary, to join fourth and fifth grades at the middle school. The sixth grade will move from the middle school to the junior high with seventh and eighth grades.

Woodard said the district has seen a continuing decline in enrollment, mostly at the elementary level.

He said while graduating senior classes average 90 to 100 students, some grades at the elementary level are averaging 60 to 70 students.

The district in 1990 had 1,711 students and in 2017, the total number of students was 1,101.

Woodard said if enrollment continues to decline at the current rate, the district will have fewer than 925 students by 2022.

Officials said the declining enrollment is the result of families leaving the area to find jobs, home schooling, charter and private schools, young people moving away or having fewer children, and open enrollment at other districts.

Woodard said previously with the decrease in the number of students, the district has lost $3.66 million in state funding because funds follow a student when he or she goes to another district or charter school. From May 2017 to the present, the district has lost more than 70 students with a loss of $462,770 in state money. Each student brings approximately $6,000 to his home district.

Treasurer Jonathan Pusateri said closing the school would save $53,799 in utility costs annually. He also said with the enrollment decline, the district will be in deficit spending by fiscal year 2018 with an ending fund balance of negative $1.9 million by 2021.

Maplewood Local Schools closed an elementary building last year, also because of declining enrollment.

Woodard said nothing has been decided about what to do with the elementary building.

“The school’s gymnasium will be used for evening sports team practices. We will keep the heat down and whatever else we can do to reduce costs there. The gym will be used periodically,” Woodard said.

The district has implemented shared services with Lordstown to save money and has cut positions. The district can’t offer preschool because it doesn’t have the money to fund it. Voters approved a 4-mill, five-year renewal levy in 2011, generating $592,720, and a new five-year levy in 2015, generating $765,597.

Woodard said the district does plan to hire an additional third-grade teacher for next year as the enrollment is expected to be over 80 students in that grade level. That would be four teachers, while other grades have three.

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