Anaconda school trustees voted 5-2 Tuesday to close Dwyer Elementary School, said Kevin Patrick, the district's business manager.
The closure comes on the heels of a recent election in which Anaconda voters turned down two bond requests. These requests would have consolidated three schools into a new pre-school through eighth-grade building and resulted in the renovation of Anaconda High School and Mitchell Stadium.
Now, with the Dwyer closure, Anaconda’s pre-school, first- and second-grade students will attend Lincoln Elementary, while Fred Moodry Middle School will take on grades three through six. Anaconda High will become a junior-senior high school consisting of grades seven through 12.
“Essentially (the motion) was plan B,” said Superintendent Gerry Nolan, pointing out that closing Dwyer was a second option if the bond issues failed.
Nolan said consolidating Anaconda’s schools has long been overdue.
“We have 1,100 students and five buildings,” said Nolan, adding that the cost of maintaining the five buildings has forced the district to cut programs.
But with the closure of Dwyer, Nolan said, the district will save $400,000 annually, hire new teachers and bring back some of the programs that were previously slashed.
“We’ll be able to hire six or seven new teachers, so we can replace and augment the programs we have for our students,” Nolan said.
He added that he expects to see programs in art, music and technology, among others, return to Anaconda’s schools.
“We want to have a more well-rounded student,” said Nolan.
Discussions regarding consolidating Anaconda’s schools have been going on for some time.
Last year Anaconda residents weighed in on how Anaconda’s schools should be consolidated through a survey. Some raised concerns about housing middle- and high-school students in the same building. Then in April 2015 the board voted to consolidate Fred Moodry Middle School with Anaconda High School, but the motion was defeated 3-to-4 and the board held off on making a decision.
Although some residents have objected to mixing pre-teens with high-schoolers in the past, Nolan told the Standard on Wednesday that he believes fraternization between middle- and high-school students won’t be a problem in the new junior-senior high school.
He pointed out that the two age groups will have separate entrances and different lunch periods and will be on different floors for the greater part of the day.
As for Tuesday night’s vote, Trustee Glenda Crum made the motion to close Dwyer, and it was seconded by Michael Huotte.
Crum, Huotte, Bryan Lorengo, Lisa Crum-Petritz and Brandie Villa voted for the measure, while Angela Galle and Gayle Venturelli were the dissenting voters.