- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

ELBA, Neb. (AP) - Above painted pictures of students participating in school activities, the wall of the cafeteria at Elba Public School reads, “Moments are short … Memories last forever.”

But for the 83 real students who pass beneath it every day, the looming saying might soon ring very true.

The Grand Island Independent reports (http://bit.ly/QSsZFx ) Elba Public School has an average daily enrollment of 25 or fewer students in ninth through 12th grades. Next year, it is on track to stay that way.

Because of a state law, however, that means the school might be forced to close its doors. Superintendent Mikal Shalikow and the school board are searching for options, from bringing in students to unifying or even consolidating with another school.

But while Elba’s issue is a question of how to keep its school open, as in many small towns, it is also a question of whether the community will survive.

And they’re running out of time.

“Without a school here,” Shalikow said, “I don’t know what would happen to Elba.”

___

This isn’t the first time Elba has had this discussion, Shalikow said. Three years ago, they had a meeting about the same thing.

And it goes even further back, school board President Terry Spilinek said. They saw the low enrollment rolling in, he said, but the problem isn’t easy to fix.

The law states that if a school district has a fall membership or average daily membership at or below 25 students for two consecutive years, that school will become a Class I school. Because the state did away with Class I school districts in 2006, however, Elba’s school district would be closed and the land added to other districts, Spilinek said.

Elba’s four foreign exchange students and any students in the foster system or who are wards of the state do not count toward the total enrollment, Shalikow said. That leaves six students in each grade from ninth through 12th grades, making the total 24.

With eight eighth-graders slated to come in for 2014-15, he said, Elba is right on the edge.

If they can make it just a few years down the road, however, this won’t be a discussion, Spilinek said. Elementary enrollment is much higher, and those kids entering high school would boost enrollment well over what is required.

But that doesn’t matter to the law.

Story Continues →