By Michael Howell
After functioning for 124 years, the Grantsdale Elementary School is set to close its doors at the end of this term. That was the decision made by the Hamilton School District Board of Trustees last month on a 5 to 2 vote.
Hamilton School District Superintendent Tom Korst said that the closure was prompted by a $370,000 shortfall in the school district’s budget. He said the district expects to save $100,000 to $110,000 by closing the Grantsdale school. Korst said that the district is looking at saving another $120,000 to $140,000 through an early retirement incentive program. This reduces the shortfall to about $120,000 at this point.
Korst said there would be the immediate financial benefit in absorbing the Grantsdale Elementary School students into the Daly Elementary School because it would eliminate some duplicate services such as secretarial, kitchen and custodial services.
He said it also makes a lot of sense in terms of a longterm facilities plan. He said the building is very old and will need some expensive repairs in the not too distant future. The heaters in the building are 20 to 35 years old, the roof is in need of repair, the windows need replacing and the parking lot needs to be reconfigured, said Korst. He said the students could easily be accommodated in the Daly Elementary School and that the land base there would allow for future construction on that campus if the need should arise. He said there was room in the district, without the Grantsdale campus, to absorb a surge in students if the economy should turn around and the student population suddenly booms.
“But I don’t think anyone is expecting the population of Hamilton to double or triple any time soon,” said Korst.
Korst said a third benefit that the consolidation of the elementary schools brings is the possibility of keeping some very valuable education programs that would otherwise have to be cut.
According to Korst, not everyone working at the Grantsdale school will lose their jobs. He said there will be a reduction in force related to the consolidation and the budget shortfall. But those reductions would be based on seniority. He said that someone working at the Grantsdale school in a position of seniority would keep their job and move to another campus in the district. The total reduction could involve anywhere from 5 to 10 positions being eliminated, he said.
Korst said that he does not know what might happen to the Grantsdale Elementary School building and grounds, but he presumes that the property will be sold or transferred to some other entity for a public use. He said he is checking on the title to the property and looking at the possibility of disposal.
“It would not make much sense to hold onto the building and playground property,” he said.
Korst said the decision was a very tough one to make because of all the history and the emotional attachment of the community to the place.