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Archive for Monday, January 9, 2006

Board in final stages of closing school

Williamstown Grade School pupils will attend new building in Perry

January 9, 2006

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— One of the few institutions in the small town of Williamstown will move west to Perry at the end of this school year when the new Perry-Lecompton Middle School is completed.

As part of the bond issue that voters passed in 2004, school board members in the Perry-Lecompton district this evening will officially consider closing two schools, including Williamstown Grade School, and reassigning students to the new school.

"It's really not a big deal. It's really just a formality because the voters decided it a year ago," said Steve Johnston, Perry-Lecompton's superintendent.

Because the action involves a school closing, law requires a public hearing, which will be during the 7 p.m. meeting at the school district's office. Members of the public can speak to board members during the hearing if they wish.

"It's really all just a pretty routine matter," Johnston said.

The district will move fifth through eighth grades into the new middle school in the fall. Construction is still underway on the new building, which is attached to Perry-Lecompton High School.


Williamstown Grade School fifth-graders Nick Alvarez, center, and Jeff Kirk remove the American flag from its pole as Caleb Richmond and Bailey Seetin work to fold the Kansas flag at the end of school Friday.

Williamstown Grade School fifth-graders Nick Alvarez, center, and Jeff Kirk remove the American flag from its pole as Caleb Richmond and Bailey Seetin work to fold the Kansas flag at the end of school Friday.

Since 2002, Williamstown has been home to all fifth-grade classes in the district. This year 72 students are attending the school, Johnston said.

In November of 2004, voters in the district handily approved, in a 1,772-994 vote, the $9.97 million bond issue, which included funding for the new middle school.

The school district also sold the Williamstown school in April 2005 to the Williamstown Assemblies of God Church.

Since then, the church congregation has been using the building for Wednesday evening and weekend services, said Rick Burcham, the church's senior pastor.

After the school year, the church will have office space for its staff, Burcham said. It also will continue to open the building's gymnasium during the evenings for exercise and public use, he said, even though much of the church's 130-person congregation comes from the surrounding area and few are from Williamstown.

Despite the building still having a use in the community, losing a school that was built in the 1950s is somewhat of a sore subject for some in Williamstown, mostly for sentimental reasons.

"We don't have too much other than the fire department. We're just kind of out in the boonies," said Ken Burns, who has lived two houses away from the school for 17 years.

"I think it's kind of a shame for it to close," said Dusty Lawrence, 18, who graduated from Perry-Lecompton High School last week.

Lawrence attended first grade at the Williamstown school, he said, and he lives next door to the school with his parents.

But others don't believe losing the school will affect the community that much, particularly because nearly all students were bused there from the area anyway. Now the students will attend school in a brand-new facility in a central location in the district after more than 60 percent of voters approved of the plan.

"There aren't very many kids that live here anymore," said Warren Pearson, who lives down the street from the school.

Pearson said he has lived in Williamstown since the 1950s and his children attended the school.

The church's pastor Burcham, who lives in rural Oskaloosa, said because so few Williamstown children attended the school, it would not drastically affect the community. He also said he personally has heard no complaints about the change.

"I don't get a lot of the negative being a pastor of the church," he said.

- Staff writer George Diepenbrock can be reached at 832-7144.

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