Students, teachers say permanent goodbye to Walton Rural Life Center

Wednesday, March 24, marked the last day students at Walton Rural Life Center.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:01 PM CDT
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WALTON, Kan. (KWCH) - Wednesday, March 24, marked the last day students at Walton Rural Life Center. The last day was more somber this year as it marks a more permanent end. In March, this year, the Newton school board voted to close the being the process toward closing the charter school for kindergartners through fourth graders.

Leading up to Wednesday, emotions in Walton have been high with the historic school’s impending closure. Walton Rural Life Center opened in 1912. The bell ran for the last time 11 decades later. Among those reflecting on the school’s history is John Esau, a former student who attended kindergarten at the school in 1964.

“We had combined grades. It was K through sixth and it was just a wonderful experience,” Esau said.

Walton Rural Life Center teacher Rhonda Roux, at the school for 15 years, said Wednesday was one of the saddest days of her career.

“A lot of my kids have tummy aches today and it’s because of the change of going to different schools, and maybe some of them don’t know where to go,” Roux said.

Next year, Roux, four other teachers and Walton’s principal are headed to Northridge Elementary School in Newton. Thursday will be Roux’s last day in the building.

“I’ve taught for 25 years, so there’s a lot to pack up,” she said.

Explaining the board’s reasoning for choosing to close the charter school, the Newton school district cited an overall drop in attendance. The district reported seeing a decrease in enrollment among elementary students across the district in the last five years.