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Decorah school built with love 55 years ago closes its doors

DECORAH, Iowa. (KTTC) – On a cloudy Saturday morning many said goodbye to North Winneshiek Community School after 55 years.

Nancy Sojka, North Winneshiek Art Teacher

Nancy Sojka came to North Winneshiek in 1976 with an art degree in hand, eager for her first job.

“I wrote the curriculum and I decided when they would learn about color and when they would learn about paper and when they would learn about clay,” said Sojka. “It’s really sad for me to think that this building will sit empty and there will be no children here.”

After 27 years of teaching, Sojka started to notice the dwindling number of children in her classes. “There were no longer families with 8 or 10 children,there were families with two or three children.”

“The population was getting smaller we knew that we knew that it was coming,” said Sojka. She knew that North Winneshiek would close its doors one day.

The first cut came in 2002 when the the K-12 school got rid of the high school. Now, 17 years later, the entire school is shutting down due to enrollment.

Cael Wangsness, North Winneshiek 5th grader

For Cael Wangness, a 5th grader at North Winneshiek, saying goodbye to the school his father and grandparents attended is bittersweet.

“Just the small classes and teachers cause when its small classes your teachers get to know you well,” said Wangness.

A school with such a rich history, but plagued by the lack of students is very difficult for Brian Peterson who graduated in 1986.

“It’s hard but hopefully there will be something that happens here so there will be some life in the future.”

A future that’s up in the air as plans for the building are in the hands of the Decorah School District.

Brian Peterson, 1986 North Winneshiek graduate

“We hope we really hope that the Decorah School Board will see that this is a valuable space they need more space for kids,” said Peterson.

The final round up of former and current mustangs were given the opportunity of a lifetime. “The opportunity to come back and walk around the halls once again and see other people that they knew when they were here,” said Sojka.

And as the day came to a close, bellies were filled with food and laughter, but now comes the hard part.

“We know that we will have to be pushing them out the door so that we can clean up and put things away,” laughed Sojka.

North Winneshiek will officially close June 30th. 

Ubah Ali

Ubah Ali

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