Baraga Schools considers closing Pelkie Elementary

PELKIE — Wednesday evening, the final public forum was held to discuss the possible closing of Pelkie Elementary School.

Superintendent Jennifer Lynn gave a short presentation, stating that decline in enrollment and the district’s budget issues led the board to strongly consider closing down the Pelkie School for good. But those who attended brought up their own concerns and one of those was what to do with the building itself.

“Is it just going to become a blight or is it something that the community is going to be able to maintain and utilize? So there’s definitely concern from people that live right out in the Pelkie community that this building be cared for and maintained and still be an asset within the community,” said Lynn.

That concern brought up the possibility of declining property values.

And while Lynn said the bus routes could be trimmed by as much as half an hour, parents say they were told that some of their children may have to be on the bus as early as 6 a.m.

But what seemed to hit home the hardest was the historical connection that the school has with the local community.

“There’s a concern that you just can’t replace the atmosphere of a small rural school set out in a country setting, but if we go into town, that the teachers are excellent, regardless of where they are,” Lynn said.

Attendees were given the opportunity to fill out surveys but not before a few residents sent out a clear message to the board.

“Basically, the community is going to have to support our school board. But our school board has to remember they have to support the community too,” Pelkie resident Alan Stockton said.

“I would plead to the school board and administration to give this monumental decision a great deal of consideration. I know you have but give it more consideration, not only with your mind and your budget, but also with your heart,” Pelkie resident Sandy Ruuspakka said.

The feedback from the meetings will be used in addition to the feedback from the students as well.

Lynn spoke about what the plan is going forward.

“A lot of excellent ideas generated from the community members that we need to digest and I think we’re going to have some positive and creative solutions in the end,” Lynn said.

A decision on the school should be made during the Board of Education meeting in March.