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Mallard School Building Hangs In The Balance

November 28, 2017
by Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

WEST?BEND - It's been three years since the school board for West Bend-Mallard school district decided not to close the building in Mallard and set parameters, that if met, would mean that they would again consider closing the building. As a reminder, those parameters are:

- Certified enrollment drops to 320 students,

- Elementary class size (kindergarten through fourth grade) drops to an average of 20 students,

- The district's unspent balance falls $100,000 in one year,

- The unspent balance falls to $450,000

- Open enrollment out becomes more than open enrollment in,

- Building upkeep expenses rise drastically or

- District expenses are more than district revenue.

On Monday, November 20, the West Bend-Mallard School Board met with faculty, parents and concerned citizens to discuss the possibility of the closure of the elementary school in Mallard.

"We realize that this is a very difficult subject," John Zaugg, School Board President began. "We ask that everyone be respectful of each other and if the Board has any clarification questions to ask we will."

West Bend-Mallard Superintendent Amanda Schmidt began the meeting by posing the following to think about during the meeting: Who is the main focus of the district? The students. What do we have to cut in order to survive if we keep the Mallard building open? Typically, teachers and programs. What is the main goal of this district as a whole? To stay fiscally viable for the future generations of our communities.

It is not difficult to understand that certified enrollment has declined over the last three years, with the current school year being the lowest since the 2005-2006 school year.

"Currently the Mallard building houses grades K Fourth, which is 100 students," Schmidt said. "Using the old district boundaries there is a total of 65 students classified as Mallard students. Thirty-one of these students attend West Bend-Mallard while 34 students open enroll out to Emmetsburg, Pocahontas, Laurens or are home schooled."

Based on projected enrollment by the fiscal year 2020 certified enrollment is estimated at 261 students. The district could potentially save $130,398 per year. This means by closing the building the district can preserve the ability to continue course offerings that students need and improves the long-term outlook for the district.

Merging the two building into one will mean some extensive cost to remodel all three floors of the West Bend School. Remodeling the building must comply with parameters set by the State Fire Marshall.

Before opening the floor for comments, the following three options were proposed: 1) leave the building open and continue to revisit the parameters each year, 2) close the Mallard building June 2018 or 3) close the Mallard building.

"We know at some point the transition has to happen, but I want us to be really thoughtful about it and we not rush so that it has a negative impact," Kay Auten, Fourth Grade Teacher. "We don't talk about the cost; the cost of the district to budget to demolish. We cannot in good conscious leave Mallard with an eyesore because that is what has happened in other districts as you leave that building empty, it then becomes a rats nest."

"We know we have room for everyone currently at the Mallard building, so the questions becomes is there really room for everyone to grow and learn in the way that they need to," Auten continued.

"We have room now. Just look at what we have room for in Mallard," Peggy Keynon, Elementary Music Instructor began. If you decide to close the building, you need to give us time to get things setup in Mallard. If there is a legitimate buyer, which I'm not aware of anyone currently, what are the plans to tear down the building; I think the big thing is, if we close the Mallard building what does that say to people."

"I know that it is the Boards job to handle the money and provide the best education possible," Joe Schuller, district said. "Why do we not see any West Bend numbers? Are you trying to tell us that numbers have not dropped in West Bend? It seems like you are attacking Mallard, making it Mallard's fault, trying to make Mallard feel guilty."

There was some further comments reiterating what others have already said giving the Board many questions to think about and to consider before making a final decision.



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