Superior School Board votes to shutter Lake Superior Elementary
The motion passed on a split vote. The school will shut its doors at the end of the 2023-2024 school year.
SUPERIOR — The Superior School Board will close Lake Superior Elementary School in the 2024-2025 school year and consolidate students into the district’s remaining five elementary schools.
The move passed by a split vote during a special board meeting at Superior Middle School Monday, April 17. Board President Len Albrecht, Clerk Ed Gallagher and outgoing member Laura Gapske voted to close the school; Vice President Steve Olson and Brooke Taylor voted against the closure. Steve Stupak and Mike Meyer were absent.
The move is expected the save the district more than $1 million annually and net a one-time savings for scheduled routine maintenance of roughly $795,000. School consolidation discussions were prompted by declining district enrollment; a capacity study showing elementary school space is being underutilized; and an expected $4.1 million budget deficit for the 2024-2025 school year when federal ESSER funds run out.
Sarah Shaw attended Lake Superior Elementary School as a child and has a daughter in classes there.
“I have a first grader who is going to be devastated tonight when I tell her her school is closing,” Shaw said through tears following the decision. “She has made the best friends … every single adult and every single student knows her by name since the day she walked in the door.”
It’s something Shaw doubts her daughter will find in another school.
Bryan Bolin also attended Lake Superior Elementary School when he was young.
“I’m not surprised. I feel like they came to a decision months ago and they’re just — this is all just a show,” said Bolin,who has two sons at Lake Superior Elementary. “I really don’t think they have students’ best intentions in mind. I know they have to do what’s important for the budget, but we’re talking about kids and families.”
The board didn’t appear to explore other options, he said.
“It just feels like within a state that’s not very pro-public education, I’m not surprised our local school board is closing down schools,” Bolin said.
Following an hour of emotional public comment, board members discussed the options while answering the occasional question from the audience. Olson made a motion to keep all six schools open, which failed on a split vote. Gapske then made a motion to table the decision until new school board member Nick Shumacher takes his seat. That motion also failed.
Gallagher made the motion to close Lake Superior Elementary School, seconded by Albrecht, and it passed.
Gapske said it was a tough meeting to end her term on.
“I think it’s important to remember what a school board member’s role is and that is what’s in the best interest of our kids' education, fiscally responsible and then policy,” Gapske said. “And so I liked the idea of hearing the qualitative information from the parents, but the board needs to focus on those three roles as a school board member. And this was not easy for anyone tonight. I think we made the right decision for the long-term health of the school district.”
Less than half an hour after the meeting ended, District Administrator Amy Starzecki sent an email to parents about the decision.
“Starting in the fall of 2024, we will move from six elementary schools to five elementary schools. This means that after the 2023-24 school year, Lake Superior Elementary will permanently shut its doors,” she wrote. “This wasn't an easy choice for anyone. Given the budget forecast, we believe this step will allow us to provide our students with the finest and most efficient education.”
Bolin, whose wife, Amanda, has family in the Poplar area, said one option their family will consider is open enrolling to the Maple School District.
Shaw said she's looking at possibilities such as moving her daughter to Cathedral School or home schooling her.
"This is the blue-ribbon school in the district, and they're closing it," Shaw said.