- Associated Press - Sunday, December 7, 2014

OWASA, Iowa (AP) - Many former rural Iowa schools are now vacant buildings, and more small schools may feel pressure to close in the next few years.

The Des Moines Register reports (https://dmreg.co/1G3Uyyb ) a budget guarantee that had help small districts with declining enrollments survive expired last year after being phased out over a decade.

So it may become harder for small schools to stay open. Today, Iowa has 338 school districts. In 1950, there were 4,652 districts.

The idle school building in Owasa is symbolic of the trend because local leaders fought a 1958 law that required all schools to be part of a K-12 district.

Owasa’s school closed after an Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 1967, and the town’s population has declined 60 percent since then. Other small Iowa schools may soon join the more than 4,000 idle schools in the state.

“You can battle it, but I think the handwriting is on the wall,” said Robert Fuller, a former state representative and the last surviving Owasa school board member who fought the state’s law and lost.

In Hancock County, the Corwith-Wesley school district is closing at the end of this school year because of the financial pressures. And the Hamburg and Farragut districts in southwestern Iowa are weighing their options.

Last week, voters in Hamburg rejected a plan to merge with the Farragut district, so the 372 students in both districts face uncertainty.

Longtime school historian Bill Sherman said losing a school district can be disastrous.

“If a small town loses a school, they lose their community center and they lose one of the major economic centers,” said Sherman, a retired employee of the Iowa State Education Association. “It’s bad news for small town Iowa to lose a school.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com


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