Parents gathered in the cafeteria of Fowler Elementary School on Monday night to discuss the possibility of the campus — known by staff as “the little school with a big heart” — closing next year.
The meeting was called by the Killeen Independent School District as part of the process to change school attendance zones for the 2013-2014 school year. The zone change, as recommended by the district’s administration, would close Fowler, and divide the students among Clifton Park, East Ward and West Ward elementary schools.
District Superintendent Robert Muller, who spoke at Monday’s meeting, said the recommendation to close Fowler was in part due to the expense of keeping the school running while opening the district’s 33rd elementary school next year.
“This is an expensive school to operate because it is small,” Muller said.
According to data presented by Muller at the meeting, the cost to operate Fowler is about $2.5 million per year, making it one of the most expensive elementary schools in the district to run.
The projected cost to operate the new elementary school is $4.5 million, bringing the projected total cost to operate both schools next year to $7 million.
If the proposed attendance plans are approved, Fowler would close, and its staff moved to the new elementary school, Muller said.
“This is not a decision we take lightly; however, it is a business decision at this point,” Muller said.
While closing Fowler may save the district money, nearly all the parents who spoke at Monday’s meeting were opposed to closing the school. Many parents, like 26-year-old Tanika Claggett, were Fowler alumni.
“My brother and I went here. This school means a lot to this neighborhood,” said Claggett, whose daughter is attending prekindergarten at the campus. “It’s like a family.”
In November, Fowler supporters packed a school board meeting to urge board members to either keep the school open or move the Fowler name to the new school.
Speaking Monday, Muller said the district has not yet decided what it would do with the old campus if it were closed. He also said it would be up to the board whether to transplant the Fowler name to the new school.
In the end, Fowler’s fate will be up to the members of the board. Muller said the district will hold more public meetings on the new attendance zone changes, and a school board vote could come Feb. 11.