Fairfield enrollment down with Libertyville closing

Fairfield enrollment down with Libertyville closing/KTVO

Iowa schools are faced with a tight budget this year, with only a 1.1. percent increase in state aid.

It’s a problem the Fairfield School District is all too familiar with.

Earlier this year, administrators were faced with $850,000 worth of cuts, and Libertyville Elementary was the first to go.

It's a decision Fairfield resident Ben Picard thinks is driving students out of the district.

Earlier this month, 67 students open-enrolled to Cardinal, Pekin or another neighboring district.

"At $6,500 in state reimbursed tuition each, that equals around $435,000 per year lost, and $387,000 was the savings from closing Libertyville," Picard said.

But Superintendent Dr. Laurie Noll told KTVO that's not all the district saved.

The actual amount reaches more than $977,000, when factoring in additional cuts to the high school assignment journal, data specialists, a grounds keeper and much more.

Noll said the district was anticipating a loss in students with the school closing because the same thing happened when the district closed Lockridge Elementary more than ten years ago.

Picard said with some changes, Fairfield schools won't have to lose out.

In February, the district considered placement options for the 82 Libertyville students.

It went with grade-alike, which means the district will organize its schools by grade, rather than neighborhood.

But Picard suggests turning Libertyville into a kindergarten through 8th grade magnet school instead.

He said it’s the best way to keep students in the district and improve their performance.

His community survey showed positive feedback on the idea:

"If a Libertyville Elementary magnet school is put in place, then the parents of, so far 40 kids, have pledged to keep them in the district," Picard said.

Now it's just a matter of getting the district on board.

Noll told us she knows very little about Picard's idea, and if a magnet school is really something he'd like to pursue, she said he should get in touch with the local private school for a few tips on how to make it happen.

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