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Crescent, Iowa community expresses concern over possible school closure

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) – Crescent Elementary School is the smallest school in the Council Bluffs School District and has the lowest enrollment rate of only 64 students.

This is one of the reasons the district is considering closing the school, the second attempt since 2017.

But during a Council Bluffs School Board meeting on Tuesday, families and students fought back.

“I don’t want my school to close and I want all my friends to stay there and not move, and all my favorite teachers,” says third grade student Maligna Hargens.

“Crescent Elementary School was the first school where my children showed any academic progress and any motivation to go to school. For many days they cried when they were sick because they wanted to go to Crescent, they didn’t want to miss a day of school,” parent Dana Reef told the school board.

Mark Schuldt, principal of the district’s elementary schools, spoke about what they have done over the past six years to try to increase enrollment at the school, including the addition of the Lead the Way STEM program, which has been put on hold due to COVID. The school added a full-time principal, expanded the population of Crescent families attending different schools, and became a partner for the school’s rebranding and publicity.

The district also developed a new school slogan, opened pre-school and after-school kindergartens, a virtual academy during COVID, and tried to open a preschool.

“We needed to have at least six students for there to be a viable preschool program, and we didn’t have enough interest to do that, we couldn’t get six students,” Schuldt says.

The average class size at Crescent Elementary is only 11, and 42% of K-5 students living in Crescent attend Crescent Elementary.

But parents say that the school is still needed by society.

“Our main reason for moving to Crescent was that the school was large and generally better than the Council Bluffs school system,” parent Richard Bothe tells the board.

“School is the glue that holds the city of Crescent together,” adds Jessica Urban, parent of a Crescent student.

“Crescent Elementary meets the needs of rural families that other schools in the district cannot meet,” Shana Zordell told the board. “The value of having this local school is more than obvious.”

Board members acknowledge that the district needs to make up for student losses during the pandemic. They say they are losing about $3 million due to the low numbers.

Closing the school could save the county about $1 million.

“It’s vital to the community, it’s very important to the community. As we learned tonight, this is the heart of the community,” says former Crescent Elementary School teacher Whitney Bergin.

The Bluffs Council School Board did not vote on the issue at Tuesday’s meeting – a vote is scheduled for March 28.

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