Board votes to close Brownsdale school; Vote is unanimous

Lana Mindrup becomes emotional while trying to speak about the vote to close down the Brownsdale Elementary School during a special meeting Wednesday night in Hayfield. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Lana Mindrup becomes emotional while trying to speak about the vote to close down the Brownsdale Elementary School during a special meeting Wednesday night in Hayfield. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

‘Not an easy decision’; Brownsdale school will close at end of 2015-16

The Brownsdale Elementary School will close.

The Hayfield Community Schools Board voted unanimously to close the elementary school during a special meeting Wednesday in the Hayfield High School Cafeteria.

“It was difficult, it doesn’t come easy to us,” Board Chairman Christopher Ebling said. “We’ve spent a lot of hours working on this. … There’s been a lot of data coming to us, it’s been countless hours that we’ve spent doing this. So it doesn’t come easy to any of us, you can see the emotion on the board members’ faces tonight, it’s not an easy decision. But we have a task to do as board members and this is part of that process.”

Hayfield School Board member Lisa Bungum speaks as board members talk about the vote to close the Brownsdale Elementary School.

Hayfield School Board member Lisa Bungum speaks as board members talk about the vote to close the Brownsdale Elementary School.

Only one action item was on Wednesday’s agenda — to vote on the resolution to close Brownsdale Elementary School.

Several of the board members spoke before the vote. Board member Lana Mindrup broke down and couldn’t speak for a minute, but she said the decision was not taken lightly.

“It has not been easy separating the emotional part of me from the business part,” she said. “We looked at many things last year to reduce our expenses by $225,000, so to say that Brownsdale is the only thing we’ve looked at is untrue.”

Yet she finished on a higher note, saying she would continue to stay positive and hoped the community would continue to support the district. She said the board would continue to look at options for raising enrollment and student programs.

“No matter the outcome tonight, we will continue working towards reversing the declining enrollment issue, as well as the scheduling and on campus college credits to maintain our students here in our district,” she said.

No public comment was on the agenda, but many in the crown of more than 100 people showed displeasure with the vote, shaking their heads or crossing their arms.

“Are you kidding me?” one woman said as the board talked.

However, others in the crowd nodded, seeming to understand the thinking behind the decision.

For community member Dan Holst, the decision the board had to make was not enviable.

“It’s too bad they have to close it, you’re not going to really know what you’ve done until you’ve done it,” he said.

A woman drops her head as it was announced at a special meeting Wednesday night that Brownsdale Elementary School would be closed. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A woman drops her head as it was announced at a special meeting Wednesday night that Brownsdale Elementary School would be closed. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

He noted declining enrollment makes things difficult, as it cuts out much of the income. But now that the board decided, Holst pointed out the necessity of making it work.

“The decision’s been made, now the thing is to get it to work,” he said.

The tentative plan is to close the school on June 30, but that is an estimate and could change.

“We’ll just work on the transition plan that was preliminary and presented to us at the last meeting,” Ebling said. “We’ll work on finalizing that and the administration team will work on that and present it to the board as we go through that.”

The board brought up the idea of closing the elementary school due to a number of factors, including operating costs, capital expenses, facility needs, and decreasing enrollment trends. One of the main issues is a 25 percent decrease in enrollment in the last 13 years. Superintendent Belinda Selfors previously noted the Hayfield campus can hold about 1,000 students, and currently houses just under 600. The Brownsdale campus currently holds about 120 students, including some kindergarten through second-graders, all the district’s third-graders, and some students in early childhood special education programs.

The board faced a choice of having to increase revenues or decrease expenses, according to Selfors, to fix the immediate needs, which include things such as roofing, outdated fire alarm and security systems, a lack of sprinklers in buildings, parking lot issues, flooring, heating and cooling issues and more.

People leave following the announcement that the Hayfield School Board voted to close the Brownsdale Elementary School during a special meeting Wednesday night. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

People leave following the announcement that the Hayfield School Board voted to close the Brownsdale Elementary School during a special meeting Wednesday night. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Yet the issue has been controversial, as many community members, parents and teachers didn’t want the school to close, while others were more accepting of the possible closure.

During a public hearing Feb. 29 at the Brownsdale Elementary School, many people addressed concern over bus routes, a lack of options for students, a lack of transparency, a loss of trust, and more.

Selfors presented a tentative transition plan at a meeting earlier this month, which included information requested by the board, such as staff assignments, classroom locations, class sizes, high school schedule, bus routes, time frame and more. Selfors previously noted these changes would not be made without staff and administration input, and emphasized the plan is a rough draft that would likely change. The tentative plan was created by a team of administrators.

The Brownsdale campus was built in the 1950s as its own school, and consolidated with Hayfield Community Schools sometime later.

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