Waldorf charter school 1 (copy)

East-West International Education Academy students worked on a collaborative art collage during the first day of school Sept. 3. The school closed Sept. 13 because of low enrollment numbers.

WALDORF — A charter school in Waldorf closed 10 days after it opened because of low enrollment.

The director of East-West International Education Academy said he will try to re-open the school next fall.

As the school opened on Sept. 3, Director Rob Wilkening said it had 32 secondary students enrolled. But enrollment dropped to 18 students, and that was not enough to make operating a school financially feasible, he said.

The low enrollment prompted the school’s authorizing agency to rescind its support on Sept. 13. The academy’s School Board then decided to immediately suspend operations.

“It was not an easy decision by far,” Wilkening said. “It affects a lot of people.”

The school’s staff were laid off, including three teachers, and the students had to find new schools after the year had started.

Parent Angie Butler said it was a difficult transition for her daughters, who have returned to the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva School District. But she is “110%” certain she will re-enroll her daughters in the charter school if it re-opens next year.

In their short time at the school, Butler said her ninth-grader and seventh-grader were already flourishing because they had hands-on learning opportunities, one-on-one staff support and accepting classmates.

“They had already became like family,” Butler said.

East-West International Education Academy leaders had originally envisioned a K-12 school with an international and project-based focus in the rehabbed school building that was once part of the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District.

The elementary classes were canceled this summer due to insufficient prospective enrollment.

That led a few older students to also drop out because some families preferred to have all their children at the same school, Wilkening said. Other students had to leave after an unrealized busing regulation forced the school to suspend busing service.

Wilkening said he got a late start in marketing his school this year and school leaders will ramp up their recruitment efforts before next fall.

The school building won’t sit empty in the meantime. Wilkening said he is planning to host occasional community events, including a Halloween party Oct. 26.

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