In reversal, board moving forward with closing Walton

By Adam Strunk
NEWTON—The Newton School District began the process to have a hearing to close Walton Rural Life Center during its meeting on March 27.

Board Member Andy Ortiz made a motion to move forward with closing the school. Board Member Luke Edwards seconded, and the motion passed 4-3. Ortiz and Edwards, along with Board Members Brenna Haines and Melissa Schreiber voted in favor. Board Members Matt Treaster, Dayna Steinmetz and Mallory Morton voted against it.

The vote followed similar lines as a former one on Feb. 13 to keep Walton a one-section school and make Northridge a one-section school. The difference in the vote was Schreiber, who sided with the three other board members who originally argued in favor of closing Walton.

“Looking back for me, I wasn’t ready to say we are going to close a school at the time,” she said.

She said, since that time, she has heard feedback from community members asking, “why, why, why?”
“I have come to the conclusion that we do have to be smaller,” she said, adding she had more time to look at enrollment numbers and costs provided by the district.

The motion prompted additional discussion from the board. Morton asked if they had thoughts about where the students would go for the next year or where kindergarteners would go, should the Walton building close.

“We talk about not making hasty decisions, yet here we are,” she said. “When we heard there was a rumor a motion had been prepared for the night, it was not a rumor.”

The meeting was packed with people who showed up after posts on social media throughout the week discussed that the board would make a possible decision to close Walton. Many supporters from the school showed up in favor of keeping Walton Rural Life Center open.

Others spoke in favor of moving Northridge back to two sections and the district to more efficiently use resources. The discussion over months has been prompted by large declines in USD-373 enrollment.

Moving forward, the district would initially look to publish a legal notice on March 30 and April 6. The hearing on whether to close the school or not would have to take place between 10 and 20 days of the notice publication. It’s likely it will be held at Newton High School. If the district is able to follow the schedule, Van Ranken said the meeting would be held on April 24.

Editors note: We will have complete coverage up sometime this morning. In reporting, as in life, few quality actions take place after midnight and the full draft of Monday’s meeting coverage needs to be run through a copy-editor before publication. Thank you for understanding. 

0 replies on “In reversal, board moving forward with closing Walton”