Atkinson’s final days?

Lisa Depies

Atkinson Elementary?School — one of the last remaining remnants of the former Atkinson School District — could be in its final days.

Due to low enrollment numbers, it’s unlikely the school will have a kindergarten class this year.

“On April 17, we had our kindergarten?registration, which is where we get our first set of primary enrollment numbers,”?explained?Geneseo School District superintendent Scott? Kuffel.

“In Atkinson, we only had eight kindergarteners actually come in and register,” he said. Adding, at most, that number might jump to “10 or 11” by the start of the school year.

“It’s not cost effective or educationally responsible to have a class that small,” he said.

Instead, the district plans to move all Atkinson kindergarteners — and their teacher — to elementary schools in Geneseo.

“We could then offer eight sections of kindergarten and have a better distribution of kindergarten students,” he said.

“Kindergarten is a very social time for students, and most of the education is play-based. It’s difficult to group students in many different ways when you’re only dealing with a handful of kids,”? he added.

During the 2007-08 school year,? Atkinson?Elementary School? had ?kindergarten through third-grade classes, as well as a fifth-grade class.

For the 2008-09 year, the district plans to only offer first through third grade in Atkinson.

“We’ve made a commitment (to have an elementary school open in Atkinson) through 2008-09,” said Kuffel. “After that, we’ll need to look at other options.”

Kuffel said the school board has had discussions with Atkinson village officials in regards to the school. “I think they’re hoping we can come up with some scenario where we keep the school open, but most of the parents are more realistic.”

Already some Atkinson parents have requested their children be moved to schools in Geneseo, so older and younger siblings can stay together, said Kuffel.

“I? think the life of the Atkinson school is getting shorter all the time, and, with the lack of numbers, keeping it open beyond the coming year might not be feasible,” said  school board member Al VanDeWoestyne.

VanDeWoestyne, who was a member of the Atkinson School Board when the decision was made to join the Geneseo district, said, “At the time of the merger, there was no guarantee the elementary school was going to stay open even the very next year ... but it’s stayed open almost 20 years.”

The school building is owned by the Village of Atkinson. If it ceases to be used as an elementary school, the village will take over full ownership.

The site is also home to the Regional Office of Education, while the ExCel program is housed in the former Atkinson? High School. Kuffel said he would anticipate both entities remaining in Atkinson.

“I could also foresee the Geneseo district continuing to rent the elementary school gym for freshman boys and girls basketball games,” he said.

“It would be our hope for the Atkinson community that the building would remain viable,” he said.