GLADBROOK (AP) — The small central Iowa town of Gladbrook is preparing to lose its only school this summer.
Earlier this year, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck school board decided to consolidate all of its schools in Reinbeck, about 18 miles northeast. Several residents told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier for a story published Sunday that they worry that the school’s closing will make it harder to attract families and businesses to the community of nearly 1,000 people.
“Some families have already been making plans to move,” resident Shari Smith said. “Most young families don’t want to move to a town that doesn’t have a school.”
Heath Kellogg, the Tama County economic development director, said other towns’ experience shows that population loss and tough times for business generally follow the loss of schools.
“Research is pretty clear that when a school leaves, you lose population,” Kellogg said. “You lose population, you’ve got lower labor supply and loss of tax base, and so it becomes this circular pattern. Labor, lost taxes, lost retail sales — it really hurts everything.”
Mike Bearden said it’s hard to predict how the school closing will affect businesses, but it will definitely be a factor for some.
“I think what’s going to hurt the most — and it’s going to ripple — is bringing families to Gladbrook without a school at all. That’s going to be hard to sell families coming to Gladbrook. So, you’ll now have property value decline. You’ll now have less people at the grocery store,” said Bearden, who previously served on the school board for 18 years.
Mike DeWitt said he’s not worried about his DeWitt Refrigeration business because most of his customers are from other towns, but losing the school will hurt Gladbrook.
“It’s not going to be a good situation,” he said. “It seems whenever a town loses its school, it just cuts the heart out of it. Young families are concerned. We’re not a community that sits still — we take lemons and make lemonade. But, it was quite a blow.”
Gladbrook Mayor Keith Sash said the community has to find a way to move forward, but he’s optimistic.
“Gladbrook definitely will survive,” Sash said.