GARFIELD, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In a year and a half, Garfield Elementary School will close its doors. The Rogers School District made the decision in a board meeting Tuesday night.

As for what will happen to the kids, as of now, most of them will be placed at Frank Tillery Elementary in Rogers. Jennifer Setzer, who has a first grader at Garfield Elementary, said she’s frustrated with the decision.

“I take my son to school every morning, and I pick him up every afternoon. So, it’ll be an hour drive instead of a 40-minute drive each time,” said Setzer.

Rogers Superintendent, Jeff Perry, said all teachers and staff at Garfield Elementary will be provided jobs at other schools in the district.

The main two reasons behind the decision to close the school, according to Perry, are enrollment issues and financial issues. He said the school was originally built in the 1800s, and there are a lot of ADA compliance issues that will need to be brought up to code.

He said the school ideally needs to have 500 students to be economically sustainable, and Garfield doesn’t have that.

Garfield Mayor Gary Blackburn said he’s personally offered proposals to the Rogers School Board to donate 20 acres of land in Garfield to a new school. The city also said it was willing to work with the district on improving sewage and road concerns.

“That was about a $400,000 donation, and then a $1.8 million commitment from the city council to build the sewer system. So, we were looking at a well over $2 million commitment to the Rogers public school, if they would build an elementary school on that 20 acres,” said Blackburn.

Mayor Blackburn wants to keep a school in Garfield for the economy of the town. He’s worried that if people are driving from Garfield to Rogers daily to pick up and drop off their kids, they will buy their gas and do shopping in Rogers, devastating local retailers.

Despite the offer to the Rogers School Board, Perry said it wouldn’t be enough to handle the financial issues down the road.

“They did offer a tract of land, but we still don’t get past the enrollment issue of that, in that particular area, it would not produce the 500 students that we needed,” said Perry.

Setzer is discouraged after attending school board meetings. She feels that the concerns of parents and residents will be swept aside and the problem ignored as the kids transition to different schools after next summer.

“I really have low hopes because they haven’t listened to us for a year. They never initiate. They never asked for input before they started this trail of deciding,” said Setzer.

The decision for Perry and the school board was difficult to make. However, he stands by the choice and said that he did hear every word the community spoke during this process.

“Some individuals would confuse not listening, with just coming up with a different answer. I do not feel that we didn’t listen, I went out and did a community forum, and we allowed folks to speak at school board meetings, and we took written correspondences,” said Perry.

He also mentioned that he had to do what was best for the district without emotion.

Like many other Garfield residents, the school holds a sentimental value with mayor Blackburn. He lived across the street from the school for 42 years, worked with the school, his kids graduated from the school and his wife retired from it.

He said he’s tried to look at the situation objectively as a mayor and representative of the council. But, there’s a lot of history and a sense of community that comes with the school, that’s been around for over a century. Blackburn calls it the “heart of the community.”

He said it’s also the longest continually operating elementary school in the state of Arkansas.

Charter schools will have a temporary amount of time to purchase Garfield Elementary. If they don’t purchase it within that time, it will go to the city of Garfield.

“We’re going to have the public come in and talk to the council, give us their ideas. We’ll continue to try to work with the Rogers School Board for a smooth transition,” said Blackburn.

However, Blackburn is hopeful a charter school will purchase the school property so that kids will still be educated in the historic building.