Motion to close Watertown elementary school fails

A plan to close Roosevelt Elementary failed to pass at the Watertown School Board meeting...
A plan to close Roosevelt Elementary failed to pass at the Watertown School Board meeting Monday night.(Dakota News Now)
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 8:10 AM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A plan that would have closed Roosevelt Elementary in Watertown failed in a tied vote Monday night.

Declining enrollment numbers have caused the Watertown School District to consider closing an elementary school to consolidate resources and save funds. Roosevelt Elementary, which opened in 1950, was the school on the chopping block.

A plan to adopt a “partner school concept” in the district has been studied by the Watertown School Board since January. The plan would have called for students in Pre-K through first grade to attend McKinley and Mellette Elementary schools, while students in second through fourth grade would attend Lincoln and Jefferson Elementary schools.

After nearly 45 minutes of public comment at Monday night’s school board meeting, board members Jon Iverson and Jean Moulton voted in favor of the plan, but Stuart Stein and Kari Lohr voted against it. Watertown School Board President Tammy Rieber was absent.

Stein said he understands enrollment numbers are declining, but would like to see more options on how to move forward.

“There are many pros to the partner school concept, but I believe that there are pros to other opportunities as well, and I would just like the board to be able to have additional options to consider,” said Stein.

Iverson said he was once opposed to the partner school concept, but changed his mind after considering feedback from others.

“I talked to a lot of people who I really respect, and they were solidly behind the program. I really liked the idea of having five or six sections of first grade in one building,” said Iverson.

Watertown Superintendent Jeff Danielsen said although the motion to adopt the partner school concept failed, that doesn’t mean the idea is off the table.

“I do not see it as a complete no. At least, through the conversation, it was a wish to see further study, to look at some other options of the possibilities that could be out there and come back in the fall and do just that. That’s the way we’re going to take that, is that we’ll go back to the drawing board, keep the drawing board somewhat open with the current proposal, and look at some other avenues and give the board something else to think about when it comes back in the fall,” said Danielsen.