Last Wednesday, the Haven Board of Education voted to close Yoder Charter School at the end of the current school year.
Yoder Charter School, which is the only charter school in Reno County, has long been an alternative choice to public schooling for parents in the Haven school district and Reno County. Yoder, despite boasting a population of 163 people as of the 2020 census, has always managed to have a strong community around its school, which educated students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Yoder Charter hosts events every year such as an Ice Cream Social, a Thanksgiving dinner, and more recently a chicken barbecue after the students helped raise the poultry.
To some, this wouldn’t seem like a big deal. School districts are always looking for ways to save money. For me, however, this stings on a personal level.
I graduated from Yoder in 2019, after going there for nine years, from kindergarten to eighth grade. The successful attempt to close the school has not been the only attempt. Past attempts have failed, in my opinion, due to the vocality of parents. Meetings were held in the past about whether to close Yoder, and parents, including mine, stood up and made their case for why the school should stay open. And it worked, until it didn’t.
A big factor in the school’s closing was enrollment, which has been on a downward trend since COVID; enrollment (46 students) has dropped to almost half of what it was pre-COVID. A once large percentage of Amish students has now dwindled down to 10 students.
Another part of this story is the past closing of other now defunct schools in the district. Mount Hope Elementary was closed in 2015, and Partridge Grade School was closed in 2017 due to similar issues facing Yoder Charter. The closing of Partridge was controversial because of the possibility of a significant loss of students that the district would have to absorb.
The view of the majority of the school board is that closing Yoder will save the district money in the long run. And I would have to agree with the board. But as Yoder Charter enters its last few months, I think it’s important to recognize just how unique of a school it really is.
Just a couple of years ago the student body was a close to 50/50 mix of Amish and non-Amish students. In my opinion, and I’d be willing to bet from other former students as well, going to school in such a unique environment provided the graduates of Yoder Charter with a perspective that not every student can say they’ve had.
In some ways, I wish I had gone to Haven for elementary school and met my future friends a couple years earlier. But instead, I stayed at Yoder, making long-lasting relationships and graduating with a class of seven students. I’m grateful for my time at Yoder, and I think it helped make me who I am today.
The old proverb rings true once again; “All good things must come to an end.”
Cleary Percy is a Haven freshman studying Education with a focus on history