SCHOOL CUTS: Fort Dodge Enrollment Down

The Fort Dodge Community School District Board voted to slash nearly $1.9 million, or 5% of the current year’s budget from next year’s spending.  As a result, 11 ½ teaching positions, one-and-a-half librarian positions, two administrators, and one custodian position are being eliminated.

There are 327 fewer students enrolled this year, than there were in 2009-2010.  Supt. Doug Van Zyl said that equals about $1.9 million in annual state funding that the district no longer receives.  It prompted the board to close Riverside Elementary School.  It is the second elementary to be closed in two years in Fort Dodge.   The building will be repurposed as an early childhood center.

Van Zyl, who has served in his current role for two years, said that the district was able to get by with one-time stimulus funds and state I-Jobs funds, but that the money has run out.  Now, Riverside Elementary’s legacy is coming to an end for some families.  “I (finished) out my fourth grade year here, and my older boy went to school here for his four years, and now I have my other two boys (attending, as well),” said Ronny Lennon, as he waited to pick up his sons from Riverside Wednesday afternoon.

Van Zyl said that he understands the emotional attachment that people feel to Riverside.  “And we’ve tried to help communications.  We’ve had meetings with parents at Riverside.  We had an opportunity for people to come in and visit.  It doesn’t make it any easier.”

In a previous move, the board voted to close two outdated middle schools and sell off the facilities.  Students will be consolidated into a single new middle school that’s being constructed at a cost of roughly $40 million.  Van Zyl said that it would cost double that amount to refurbish the old schools. 

Van Zyl said that most of the staff cuts will be made through attrition.