Oshkosh school board votes unanimously to close Smith Elementary

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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - The Oshkosh School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to close Smith Elementary School.

Smith Elementary School in Oshkosh (WBAY photo)

The 124-year-old building was in need of major work -- as much as $3.7 million in repairs. That included an immediate need to replace the school's roof if it were to open to students for the next school year.

During the meeting some people spoke out, asking the board to delay its decision.

Tess Grunske of Oshkosh said, "My nephew attends that school, and I have seen him blossom, I have seen him grow, I have seen him just blossom in that school, and the fact that there is even talk of a shutdown hurts my heart."

Still, school board president Barbara Herzog said there was no choice but to act now after the district discovered serious issues with the roof that would have cost at least $414,000 to replace.

"We're in a very difficult situation in that the roof will not last another year, and we cannot place the health and well-being of our students and our staff at risk in a building where a roof potentially could collapse," said Herzog.

Right now 162 students attend the school, which is down slightly from years past.

The plan is to shift those students and faculty to Jefferson Elementary less than a mile away.

"The classrooms at Jefferson are actually quite large because it is a newer facility. It was designed differently than facilities that were designed in 1900 or 1895," said Supt. Vickie Cartwright.

However some say the decision is disappointing as next year Smith would have celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Parent Jen Sullivan said, "We did what we could. We're having a big celebration on Friday, but we were not given enough time and we were left with a black cloud hanging over our heads for weeks and that just, really, staff and students do not deserve that."

The district says it will send out communications to parents at Smith Elementary school right away concerning specifics about this move.

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