GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Green Bay Area Public School district school board voted unanimously to shut down Wequiock Elementary School on Monday night.

Students that attend Wequiock will now go to Red Smith Community School beginning at the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

District officials said these are difficult decisions, but they have to be made as the district faces declining enrollment and projected budget deficits in future school years.

According to a memo provided by the school district, closing Wequiock will save them $883,934.87 per year. It’s also noted that Wequiock needs a new roof and HVAC system.

“This is a painful vote, we’re heading to make more votes like this and this is the first one and none of us are taking any joy in it,” said school board president Laura McCoy.

McCoy was visibly emotional in comments she made before voting on the resolution and called for the board to take a short recess after the vote.

Leah Weakley, a Wequiock Elementary parent who has attended meetings throughout this process, also was emotional after the school board voted to shutter Wequiock.

“I still feel like we haven’t been heard and now all the other schools get to have the studies, and get to be looked at more and everything understood before making the final vote,” said Weakley.

The district has begun the process of further studying the community impact of school closures and on Monday night discussed the application process for anybody interested in being part of a committee that will look at this topic.

Weakley said a big part of her frustration is that the school board chose Wequiock Elementary as the first school to shutter and they did so before completing the community impact study.

Wequiock Elementary School first opened in 1957 (at a different location than its current one) and petitioned to become part of the district in 1965. It moved to its current location in 1998.

It’s known for its environmental and nature-oriented programming. District officials said they are trying to transition this programming to Red Smith Community School.

Roger Schilling said he attended Wequiock when it first opened. He said he has a ton of great memories from his time there (especially learning to square dance) and still keeps in touch with some of his classmates.

“I think it’s something like part of my past and I hate to have my past go away,” said Schilling.

The school district hasn’t made any final decisions on what to do with the Wequiock building. Board member Andrew Becker floated the idea of turning it into a nature center.

Wequiock parents that Local Five News spoke with said although they would have rather seen the school stay open, they like the idea of keeping its legacy alive through the nature center.

As for now, parents of Wequiock students said they’re focusing on making the most of this final school year.

“We’re looking to make this school year one of the best ones yet, trying to boost the morale, let the kids have some fun and do some extra field trips,” said Weakley.

During the public comment section of the meeting, several people spoke out against the district’s downsizing plan. Their main concerns are that the plan isn’t equitable and will impact students of color more than others.

In May, a task force made a recommendation to the school board that would close and consolidate several schools. After backlash, the school board hit the brakes on this plan and chose to conduct a further study that would focus on the community impact and equity of shutting down schools.