Crescent, Iowa community voices concern over potential school closure

Community members let their voices be heard Tuesday night at a public meeting regarding scheduling a vote on the pending closure of Crescent Elementary School.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 10:19 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Crescent Elementary school is the smallest school in the Council Bluffs Community School District, and has the lowest enrollment rate with just 64 students.

That’s one of the reasons why the district is considering closing the school down - the second attempt since 2017.

But during Tuesday’s Council Bluffs school board meeting, families and students fought back.

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

“Crescent Elementary has been the first school my children have shown any academic progress and any motivation to go to school. Many days they would cry when they were sick because they wanted to go to Crescent, they didn’t want to miss a day of school,” said parent Dana Reef in front of the school board.

Mark Schuldt, the chief of elementary schools for the district, outlined what they’ve done over the last six years to try to boost enrollment at the school including adding a Lead the Way STEM program, which was paused by COVID. The school added a full-time principal, increased community outreach to families in Crescent attending different schools, and partnered to rebrand and advertise the school.

The district also developed a new school slogan, opened before and after-school daycare, a virtual academy during COVID, and attempted to open a preschool.

“We needed to have at least six students to have a viable preschool program there, and we were unable to have enough interest to do that, we could not get the six students,” says Schuldt.

The average class size at Crescent Elementary sits at just 11, and 42% of K-5 students who live in Crescent attend Crescent Elementary school.

But parents argue the community still needs the school.

“That was our whole point of moving to Crescent was the school, about its numbers and being generally better than the Council Bluffs school system,” says parent Richard Bot to the board.

“The school is the glue that binds the town of Crescent,” adds Jessica Urban, a parent of a Crescent student.

“Crescent Elementary fulfills needs for rural families that other schools in the district cannot,” Shanna Zordell told the board. “The value of having this local school is more than evident.”

Board members acknowledge the district’s need to make up for enrollment lost during the pandemic. They say they’re losing about $3 million due to the low numbers.

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

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

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