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Decision Number
Closing of Roosevelt & Northwood Elementary Buildings
Brian Agntisch, John Beghin, & Steve Hustedt
Ames Community School District
Full Text

The District has been struggling with declining enrollment since at least 1996. The decline has had a consequent impact on the District's budget. In January 29, 2001, the District presented a 120-page boundary study report to the Board. The report expressly considered the closure of schools, along with changing boundary lines to track demographic changes in neighborhoods. After its enrollment was certified in September 2004, the District found that enrollment had declined by 151 students from the previous year, and that the budget would need to be cut by $1.3 million from the 2004-05 budget to present a balanced budget for 2005-06.

Four committees were formed and each committee was made up of school administrators and employees, parents, and members of the general public. Each committee was asked to make recommendations for spending on programs within its assigned area. On April 11, 2005, at a regular meeting, the board discussed the possibility of school closures. A proposed budget was presented to the board on May 2, 2005, and specifically proposed closing Roosevelt and Northwood Elementary buildings.

Several meetings were held to discuss the budget and the Board heard public comment at the May 16 meeting as well. On May 19, 2005, the Board voted to close the buildings. The District's budget was the predominant factor in the decision to close the schools.

The major problem with the Apellants' case is that, to some extent, the budget process allowed greater public input into the school closing decision than required by law. The Board complied with the Chapter 19 guidelines and law without knowing the specific criteria. The determinative issue is whether the Board allowed a full opportunity for public participation.

The State Board's review is very circumscribed. It can only review the process provided by the District; it cannot reconsider the substantive decision itself. The Board ultimately has the authority to determine the number of schools in the District.

That the decision of the Ames Community School District to close Roosevelt and Northwood Elementary buildings was affirmed.