Clay Central-Everly helmet

EVERLY, Iowa -- After a major decision that will alter the future of a small Northwest Iowa school district, Clay Central Everly will graduate its final high school class in May.

The Clay Central School Board members in a Monday meeting accepted the resignations of several district employees and voted to discontinue providing instruction to students in grades 7-12 in 2019-20. CCE Superintendent Dennis McClain wrote about the changes in an online message on the district website Tuesday.

That move will mean closure of the secondary school in Everly, although classes in the CCE elementary school in Royal will continue next year.

"It is just a sad thing to see happen, because I graduated from there years ago. It was a great school," Kim Gonzalez, a 1990 CCE graduate, said Wednesday.

A key decision remains on where current CCE students in grades 6-11 will attend school next year, including whether the school board will select a nearby district to arrange to send junior high and high school students, or to allow parents and students to select schooling destinations on their own.

"It is up in the air where they are going," said Gonzalez, who took a brief break while working at Barb's Corner, a landmark restaurant located north of Everly on U.S. Highway 18.

Gonzalez said the drop of CCE enrollment was pretty clear to see. She was in the last graduating class that had the notable mascot name of the Cattlefeeders, which changed for the 1990-91 year in which a younger sister graduated.

McClain said the decision was driven by an enrollment drop, as many students have sought the open enrollment process to transfer to other schools.

"The general mood is a sadness for the end of an era and uncertainty about the future. Individual families are seeking to make the best decisions for their family," McClain said in an email to the Journal.

"The patrons want to continue to have a CCE presence and that will continue with our elementary school."

Thirty-four open enrollment applications were taken out for K-12 students before the March 1 deadline. Iowa Department of Education reports show the CCE enrollment for the current year is 204 students, which is considerably down from the enrollments of 306 in 2013-14 and 353 in 2008-09.

"At our board meeting (Monday) night, our board made the difficult decision to tuition out grades 7-12 for the 2019-2020 school year. This will mean a great deal of change and, we hope, opportunity for our students. The decision was made based upon financial data, enrollment projections, open enrollment, and survey results," McClain wrote in Tuesday's message.

"We are asking that parents of 6-11 grade student(s) contact (a school secretary) at the high school to let us know which school they will attend next year. We will then be able to coordinate with each of the districts in continuing to serve our students."

District leaders have been open with community member about the difficulties of funding CCE and maintaining programs. Discussion of the results of a community survey, which had 230 respondents, was held at the Monday school board meeting.

The survey asked community members would follow any upcoming school board choice of sharing partner or select their own, and 74 percent responded they would pursue their interests, independent of the board's decision. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said students in their homes would return to CC-E for the 2019-20 school year.

Additionally, the survey reported 35 percent of respondents favored sharing extracurricular activities with the school district in Spencer, which is the largest in Clay County, while 30 percent cited Okoboji, 24 percent selected Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn and 11 percent chose Sioux Central.

In a December newsletter, CCE leaders described a committee in late 2018 touring schools in neighboring districts and the quest to share key information in a time with "lots of false rumors floating around."

"As a district, we are continuing to investigate different scenarios for reducing expenditures in the future. We are investigating all options and are being methodical in examining these options in order to make the best long-term decision for constituents and district," the newsletter said.

Everly is a town of 603 residents, while Royal has 446.

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