Wednesday was the final day of classes in the 56-year history of the Charter-Oak Ute High School in western Iowa’s Crawford County.

Next year, most 9th through 12th graders will attend classes in the neighboring district of Maple Valley-Anthon Oto. Charter Oak-Ute Superintendent Rollie Wiebers says the move is due to the district receiving less state funding because of declining enrollment.

“Your numbers are just down so low that you just can’t offer a variety enough of programs to put them in situations that’s going to make them successful,” Wiebers says. “When that looks like that trend is going to continue and that’s going to be what the future is, you got to make the difficult decision to shut down your high school and then move kids into a district where those opportunities are available for them.” Kindergarten through 8th grades will remain in the Charter Oak-Ute district.

Charter Oak-Ute formed in 1961 due to a consolidation between the districts in the neighboring cities of Ute and Charter Oak. Wiebers says this new decision was made due to dropping student numbers.

“With declining enrollment comes a lack of financial resources to provide the proper education that you need to,” he says. “That really was the overriding decision.” Wiebers says in the 1970s, the district’s enrollment was more than 800 pupils. The Iowa Department of Education certified Charter Oak-Ute’s enrollment at 271 this past school year. Over the decades, Iowa’s school numbers have seen drastic changes. Back in the late 1930s, Iowa boasted more than 900 school districts. Now, there are 332 districts statewide.

(Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)