GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Green Bay Area Public School District (GBAPS) Board of Education has come to a conclusion on the future of two elementary schools.
During a board meeting on Monday night, officials decided to close Keller Elementary School and Tank Elementary School due to shrinking enrollment and a budget deficit.
Beginning next school year, students at Tank Elementary School will attend Lincoln Elementary School. Superintendent Dr. Claude Tiller Jr. said that students will have more services when they attend Lincoln.
“Families were concerned about change, but we ensured them that this would be a better move for their students, they were pretty much okay with it but they still had some challenge with change,” said Dr. Tiller Jr.
When he met with parents earlier this month about closing Keller Elementary, Dr. Tiller Jr. said parents had strong reactions there.
“The family meetings were different, more emotional from the parents because they thought they had two to four years before this happened,” said Dr. Tiller Jr.
School district officials said they’re trying to build a new elementary school through a referendum that would have eventually absorbed the population of Keller Elementary sometime in the next two or three years.
It was the suddenness of the decision to shutter Keller that board member Andrew Becker said made him vote against shutting down the school. He was the only member of the school board to vote this way.
“There’s a human side to this that is much stronger when you have families that aren’t as comfortable with the move,” said Becker.
“I think this is one that is going to provide our students the best opportunities and make the schools better within our generation,” said school board trustee Bryan Milz who voted to shut down Keller.
Local Five News spoke with several parents of Keller Elementary School students both on and off camera on Monday afternoon. All of them said they wished that Keller would remain open.
“I’m concerned a little bit for the neighborhood, we’re going to lose a solid rock,” said Mark Steuer who is the Green Bay alder who represents the Keller Elementary neighborhood.” If that’s the way its got to be then that’s the way it’s gotta be.”
Keller Elementary closed with a vote of 6-1 while it was a unanimous decision across the board to close Tank Elementary School. According to a district memo, these moves will save the district about $1.5 million next school year.
School district officials have emphasized throughout this process the difficulty of making these decisions. They said student success is their first priority.
The school board also voted to modify a referendum question, removing any project that would modify West High School until they can study the impact of such a move more extensively. They will also keep the the John Dewey Academy of Learning in its existing building for the time being.
“It’s (the John Dewey Academy of Learning) integral to the program that it be not in another high school but certainly a future could exist where it shares a space with something that’s not a traditional high school,” said Becker.
This is a developing story.