The USD 379 school board voted 4-3 Monday night to go ahead with plans to close Longford Elementary School. It's located in Longford, a town with a population of fewer than 100 about 25 miles southwest of Clay Center.
The board initially made the decision last March to close Longford at the end of the 2008-2009 school year, but with the final vote not set until Monday, residents decided to take a shot at saving the school.
Cara Crane, whose children attend the school, says they students get an excellent education. She's concerned the closure will mean longer bus rides, with elementary and senior high students together. Plus, she says the school is vital to the community. Without it, she fears young families won't want to move there and those who do will move away.
Deputy Mayor Kim Kramer agrees. He says it's a special community, where people want to stick together. He says the community wouldn't shy away from fighting to save the school.
But in tough budget times, the Clay County school board had to weigh the bottom line. The school has 32 students, served by two teachers, a para and a shared principal. Superintendent Mike Folks says it was estimated the district would save $185-195,000 by closing Longford. As for the concerns about long bus rides, he says that's not unique in a county-wide district. He says it's an issue already faced elsewhere in the district and one that district officials are studying.
The town went to board members Monday night with an offer of free utilities and a cash payment of $8-10,000.
In the end, it wasn't enough.