Dubuque school district leaders explore closing Fulton Elementary School at the end of the school year

An elementary school in Dubuque could be closing as soon as at the end of the school year.
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 10:10 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - An elementary school in Dubuque could be closing as soon as at the end of the school year as part of a plan that Dubuque Community School District officials are examining in an effort to reduce costs.

“It is short-term pain,” superintendent Stan Rheingans mentioned. “But, in the long run, this is the right first step to put the district in great position moving forward.”

Rheingans said it all comes down to budgeting. He explained schools in Iowa are funded on a per student basis. In the last five years, and looking at next year’s projections, the district will be down 600 students.

“Eventually, you do not have a choice but to find efficiencies and one of those efficiencies is closing a school,” he added. “When you are down 600 students and you have buildings of less than 300, that is a great way to save funds.”

The superintendent said low supplemental state aid, declining enrollment, and high inflation have left the district no choice but to explore the option of reducing the number of schools in the district.

In this case, district officials are looking at closing down Fulton Elementary School. Rheingans said they looked at the two-section elementary schools because they are more costly per student compared to the four-section schools. They looked at the fastest declining enrollment and other factors, like building age and proximity to other schools. He says that is how Fulton was chosen.

“We think there is some opportunities to do better programming for our kids, to pay our staff better down the road when our budget gets better based on having fewer operating expenses of having fewer schools,” he explained, adding that the move to close down Fulton could save the district a million dollars a year.

Rheingans said the district will not have any issues assigning the students at Fulton to nearby schools. He also said making the move now will allow them to retain all of Fulton’s staff.

“Because of the number of openings that we have for next year in our elementaries because of retirement or just people who are leaving Dubuque, we can assure all of those folks that they will have a teaching position, a paraprofessional position, a custodial position, a principal’s job,” he commented. “We have openings on all of those areas so we can absorb the entirety of that staff.”

Members of the school board asked Rheingans on Tuesday night to present a plan as to what the district will do with the students who would be left without a school if Fulton closes. Rheingans told TV9 he will present that next Monday night. That is when school board members expect to make a final decision on whether to close down the school.

School district officials are also looking at reducing the number of middle schools from three to two. Rheingans said that move could save the district around $4 million a year. That, however, would not take place for a few years.

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