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A Look Back – Saving Hoyleton School

Hoyleton Grade School C.jpg

A Nashville News clipping from 1987 shows the faculty and staff at Hoyleton School two months before the Nov. 3 election that raised taxes by more than 150-percent – and kept the school financially solvent. Superintendent Steve Launius is at the top right.

By Alex Haglund

With the 2015-2016 school year comes the first year that students from Hoyleton are attending Nashville Grade School. What some residents of the area remember is that nearly 30 years ago , with the specter of Hoyleton School closing the people in the community of Hoyleton put forth an effort that kept their school open and running through last year.

While dwindling enrollment made the recent consolidation with Nashville necessary, in 1987 the problem was a fiscal one.

“Hoyleton School District 29’s future depends on a Yes vote November 3. School tax rate will go up if the issue passes or fails – it won’t cost much more to keep a local school open for the good of Hoyleton,” said a flyer in support of the 1987 ballot referendum.

District 29’s superintendent at the time, Steve Launius, spoke with the Nashville News about that referendum and what it took to keep Hoyleton School going.

“We did a study to tell what the referendum would be, what it would take to keep the school there. And then we went out there into the community and we worked and sold it,” said Launius. “We got the support of the whole community.”

“We increased the taxes in the education fund $1.50 from 92-cents, so it was $2.42,” said Launius. “That’s 163-percent increase. That’s almost unheard of.”

What was even more shocking than the huge increase in the tax rate was the overwhelming “Yes!” that community members gave the measure. Out of 386 votes cast, 337 were for the ballot initiative, 87.3-percent, while only 49 votes, 12.7-percent, were against it.

Launius said that this was a testament to how much the community cared for their school, and how much the were willing to do for it.

“I can remember one lady, I can still see her, and she said, ‘I can’t believe I just voted to raise my own taxes.’” Launius recalled.

Launius said that the passage of the referendum was pushed through by the hard work that many people, himself included, put towards it.

“We went around and we worked. We had poll watchers that day. And with the Lutheran School in the district– we worked together,” Launius stated. “It was tremendous, a tremendous effort. All the teachers, all the staff, all the community organizations. You had to have it to get the kind of result that we did.”

The flyer mentioned above has a laundry list of people and organizations that pledged their support for the issue. It read, “Village Board of Hoyleton, Mayor and Trustees, American Legion Post No. 887, Hoyleton Lions Club, Hoyleton Community Club, Hoyleton Community Women all support District 29 school tax referendum.”

Launius said that the money from the referendum was solely for the education fund– covering the day-to-day workings of the school and teaching children– not for building or transportation issues.

“They had meetings at that time, about consolidating,” said Launius. Joining Nashville, “it was tossed around.”

“They still are financially sound, or they were,” Launius said of the district just prior to consolidating with Nashville. “They had money. They just didn’t have the kids in the school.” He added that at the time of the referendum, the enrollment was, “probably in the 70s or 80s.”

Launius said that the community’s support for its school hasn’t wavered. ”What was different was the numbers, you just didn’t have the kids,” he said. “They had the support, you had the people wanting to keep it, they just didn’t have the numbers.”