Newton School Board considers closing, moving school in Walton

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UPDATE: The Newton School Board will meet today to discuss this issue at a meeting tonight.

There is a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. It starts at 7:00 at 308 E. 1st Street in Newton.
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Parents in Walton are afraid the Newton School District will close down their nationally recognized elementary school and move it out of town.

"The school has always been a big part of this little community and it really holds it together," said Lauren Wealand.

She attended Walton Rural Life Center as a child. She came back to the small town so her kids could go to the same school. Now, that may not happen.

"I was extremely angry," Lauren said about a recent announcement at a special school board meeting Tuesday night.

The Newton School Board is looking at several different plans to handle more students. At least two proposals involve closing the school in Walton and moving it into a new building closer to Newton.

"You have no idea how much hard work has gone into building this program and the backbone of the people who have started it," Lauren said.

The school's hands-on format is based in rural life, even using live farm animals to get the lessons across, to great success.

"It is a nationally ranked school," said Lauren. "And we have people flying in from outside of the country specifically to visit this elementary school."

One school board member tells Eyewitness News they want to preserve the successful program but badly need to update an aging building that's already too small. Currently they're using portable classrooms to accommodate all the students.

Lauren says that's fine. Fix the school, but don't move it.

"I could support renovating the current building. I really could. I could support none of the money going to Walton Elementary School and it just being left alone," Lauren said.

The board could decide which option it wants to go with and schedule a vote on the bond issue at its next meeting, February 13th.