By Fritz Busch
LAFAYETTE — Due to a staffing shortage, a tuition-free public charter school district focused on agriculture and the importance of rural communities will not open this fall.
Lafayette Charter School has served students from Lafayette and surrounding areas including New Ulm, Gibbon, Fairfax, Winthrop, Courtland and Brownton.
The school began in 1999 when a group of community members came together to ensure that their community would continue to have a local school.
“Our cause is to teach today’s students to be good stewards of the earth and to be educationally prepared to enter today’s society,” according to a story on the school’s website. “With a focus on agriculture, our students learn the importance of the rural community around them and how integral it is to everyday life.”
A July 14 letter to parents, guardians, teachers and staff explained the reason for the closure.
“Having identified the significant and mandatory responsibilities needed to sustain the school for the coming year and explored all avenues within the time frame, the board has been forced to recognize that the school does not have the staff or resources necessary financial resources to continue the LCS operation”, the letter said. “So many families have volunteered to help save the school, and the school board and staff members are so grateful for your efforts and support.
“It is heartbreaking for all of us, but the LCS board and staff are here to help you find a new school for your children. The school board plan will include an official notification letter to the parents of each student and will contain a contact list and additional information.
New Ulm Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said he reached out to the LCS principal to see if she needed help getting through the school closure.
“For the families, staff and students of Lafayette Charter School, this is a difficult time,” Bertrang said. “We will work with families to get information about our programs and the support structures available, knowing that they have decisions to make about their students’ education in a very short time.”
Bertrang said each school in the district will work with families to enroll them if they decide to enroll in New Ulm public schools.
“While we are working with potential enrollments, we are also working with New Ulm Bus Lines on bus routes and schedules for any additional students,” Bertrang said.
GFW School Board President Mike Kuehn said the closure is a marketing opportunity for LCS students living in the GFW district and others to attend the GFW district.
GFW High School principal Brittney Galetka said a family with LCS students contacted her and was visiting the school this week.
LCS offered weekly classes in character education, farming, technology, music, art and library, daily physical education, all-day kindergarten, an on-site greenhouse with agriculture, private and paid piano lessons and smaller classes in which approximately 70 students learned at their own pace in multi-level classrooms.
(Fritz Busch can be emailed to [email protected])