Crescent Elementary closes, 102 years after first school opened

Crescent Elementary School officially closed its doors Thursday after over a century of service.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 9:41 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The last day of school is hard enough.

Young elementary school kids say goodbye to their friends.

Teachers get teary-eyed over their favorites.

And even the bus driver will miss serving his community.

But this year, the goodbyes are doubly difficult in Crescent, Iowa. Every kid will go somewhere else next year.

Due to low enrollment, the Council Bluffs Community Schools district made the decision to close Crescent Elementary School. Less than 70 students weren’t enough to keep the school open in the small town just across the Mormon Bridge from Nebraska into Iowa. After a community fight to change the decision, the reality came to pass Friday with the last day of school for the last 5th grade graduating class, and the others, at Crescent.

“Any time you have a school in a community like this, it’s a sacred thing,” principal Devin Schoening said. He will be the assistant principal at Longfellow Elementary School in the fall.

“The families that we are privileged to work with are fantastic, the kids are great, and everybody here wants what’s best for their kids, and for the folks who live in this community and their kids have attended here, and they have attended here when they were kids as well, that part’s hard, right? The word we used around here was heavy... We all understand, but it doesn’t make it any less heavy.”

Principal Schoening, his teachers and his staff let their hair down and pulled out all the stops to make the final day of school memorable, including Field Day to close out the Thursday afternoon. As parents and grandparents began to arrive on campus to pick up their kids, they couldn’t help but reminisce.

Ronny Pyrland, for example, is part of a four-generation Crescent family. In fact, it could go back even farther than that.

“My grandpa (helped) when the original brick building was being built (in 1958),” Pyrland said. “My brothers went to school here, I went to school here.”

As did his mother and his oldest daughter Clara, now heading to college at Iowa Western Community College after graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School this year. She came to see her little sister Emma’s last day of first grade and to say goodbye to Crescent.

“I walked in the building earlier and I guess it finally hit me that it’s ending,” Clara said. “Because I walked past my classrooms and I literally named every single teacher I had in every single one of those classrooms. It’s sad.”

The families who want to keep their students in this district will take them to either Lewis and Clark Elementary School or College View Elementary School. Some will leave this district and go to Underwood Elementary. All will take with them special memories of Crescent.

“As I was talking to some folks the other day about what potentially might happen to the building, we were like, oh, wouldn’t it be nice if that stayed up? There’s a banner that says something about respect, responsibility, the kind of things that signify what a roadrunner is,” Schoening said. “The desks and tables and all those things come and go, but some of the things you put your heart into, those are harder to remove.”

Jim Hunter couldn’t stand retirement so began driving a school bus for the district a few years ago. He thinks something special is coming to an end.

“You know, you build a relationship with these kids and their parents and definitely these teachers, that’s gonna be missed the most,” Hunter said. “Hats off to them, what they do every single day. You can tell by how the kids react how much they respect the teachers... I’m gonna miss that. I don’t know where a lot of teachers, where they’re gonna go, but they’re a good group of people... It’s too bad it’s happening.”

What will come of the Crescent Elementary School building and grounds is uncertain. The district hasn’t ruled out re-opening the school down the road, should there be a dramatic turnaround in the school-age population there.

The city of Crescent has been engaged in negotiations to purchase the property and possibly turn it into a community center as well.

Below are links to some of our previous stories about the closure: