VERMILLION COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — In a unanimous vote, the South Vermillion Community School Board made the decision to close Ernie Pyle Elementary School on Monday.
As a result of declining attendance over the last 15 years, the school board was in the process of deciding which of its three elementary schools to close. Superintendent Dave Chapman said discussions about closing a school have been ongoing for years.
“Enrollment continues to decline. We’re now just a little over 1500 students. Ten years ago, we were at 1800 students,” he said. “When you look at the efficiency and the effectiveness of three school buildings that are not at peak capacity compared to two that are, there’s a viability there.”
About a year ago, the school board formed a facilities advisory committee to weigh their options leading to the decision to close down one of the three elementary schools. Chapman noted that Ernie Pyle was chosen due to logistics.
“When you look at the overall enrollment, and where those kids come from, it’s more towards the south end of our school corporation. So that impacted fewer students and fewer families,” he said. “We knew regardless of what decision was going to be made by the board, somebody was going to be impacted adversely. We tried to make sure that the least amount of impact was taking place.”
The school corporation will decide how to divide the students into the remaining two elementary schools. The remaining elementary schools will be kindergarten through fourth grade, with the middle schools transitioning to 5th through 8th grades. He said they hoped to have that done by the end of April, or early May.
“Now, we’re already starting to work on what the staffing needs are going to look like, both for teachers, administrators and support staff,” he said. “We need to make sure we have all the kiddos aligned to the appropriate schools, get everybody situated.”
He said they hope not to have to lay off any staff as a result, and they are waiting to see what resignation and retirement numbers look like at the end of this year.
“We feel like we can do that through attrition. Anyone retiring, resigning, so forth, we would not replace. We still want to keep those who wish to remain here.,” he said.
Ernie Pyle Principal Kim Kesler said it was an emotional day for her and her staff. She said she held an all-staff meeting after school letting them know the news.
“Last night was truly was the first time that we had even heard of it as well,” she said. “We’re putting a positive spin on this. We all know this is a change that has to be made for the betterment of our corporation. That doesn’t make it any easier as far as our school family goes.”
She thanked students and staff for helping build a community within the school over the years– once she thinks will persist.
“We have created an atmosphere at Ernie Pyle that is welcoming, loving, safe for kids, they love to come to school, staff love to come to work, we love to get together outside of the building. When we say we are an Ernie Pyle family, we truly our an Ernie Pyle family,” she said. “The most important thing is no matter where the Ernie Pyle staff goes and no matter where the Ernie Pyle students go, they are going to be taken care of. The students will be cared for.”
Kesler said she will work to get in touch with all the families over the next few weeks, as well as getting She also said she hopes to hold events at the school in the coming months to celebrate the memories former students, staff and families have created.
It is currently unknown what will happen to the former school property.