GRATIOT—The Black Hawk Middle School in Gratiot will be vacated at the end of the 2011-12 school year.
On Oct. 10, the Black Hawk School Board voted to close the middle school building in Gratiot and house the entire school district at the building in South Wayne. The change will take place next summer.
Superintendent Willy Chambers said the decision was strictly financial.
“This year we had a budget shortfall and the board doesn’t want to erode the fund balance any further,” Chambers said.
He said there will be a $300,000 savings each year by closing the building. The district savings will include cuts in staff as well as eliminating operating costs of the building.
Chambers said the school closing will have some impact on the staff and students. He said he didn’t want to give details on the staff reductions until the staff were notified of the situation. The staff will also have to share some classrooms to use every space available for student learning; this means the teachers may be displaced during prep periods.
“The facilities are there and manageable,” Chambers said. “I think the staff will do a great job providing students the services they need and deserve.”
Chambers said the next steps are to talk to the staff and then form a committee to plan more details about what to move, who will help move and a timeline of when to move.
“I don’t know what the financial impact will be to move, but we hope to minimize that as much as possible,” Chambers said. “The annual $300,000 savings should offset some of that.”
Chamber said declining enrollment has a lot to do with the school’s financial situation. He said enrollment has dropped from 873 K-12 in 1978 to 401 4K-12 in 2011.
Chambers said as soon as the process is completed legally, the school intends to sell the building in Gratiot.
“We have a quality staff that will do what they need to do to provide the education students need,” Chambers said. “They will overcome obstacles the move will create for the district.”
Chambers said two people, other than the board and administration, attended the meeting.
Gratiot and South Wayne merged their two school districts in the mid-1960s. Early childhood through third grade are located in South Wayne, fourth through eighth grades are located in Gratiot and ninth through 12th grades are in South Wayne.