The Natrona County School District board of trustees, with sentimental regret and fiscal resolve, voted unanimously Monday to close Grant Elementary School along with other cost-cutting measures.

"In a perfect world, we would be able to save Grant, but we don't live in a perfect world," trustee Dr. Clark Jensen said before the vote.

"Unfortunately we're in a position as board members that we have to make some tough decisions sometimes," Jensen said. "We recognize that whenever we make those kinds of decisions, somebody's going to be pinched, and we're sorry about that."

Jensen made the motion to close the school at 1536 S. Oakcrest based on a recommendation from a committee that reviewed all buildings in the district. It looked at the buildings' conditions, major maintenance needs, enrollment trends, available seats per site, number of staff per site, site constraints such as parking, proximity of elementary schools, and special programming.

Grant Elementary scored the lowest, and district officials told staff and parents of the recommendation on Nov. 17. Parents were dismayed at the decision. District officials met with them last week to help them with decisions about where to send their children next year. The 33 staff will be transferred to other schools.

Despite the initial concerns, no one spoke about the proposed closure during the public comment period of the meeting.

Jensen and other trustees acknowledged the difficult decision.

"We have to make decisions for the district to survive long term," he said. "Our hearts are with you and we hope that you can find a place -- those parents who are saddened by this experience -- we hope that we can find a place that you will like just as well and I think you will."

Besides closing Grant, the Facility Condition and Capacity Study recommended disposing and removing inventory at North Casper Elementary, Fairgrounds Center, the old Roosevelt High School and Mills Elementary. The district will try to sell these buildings.

Even though the district, with state funding, has constructed or renovated $300 million worth of buildings in the past four years, outgoing trustee Paula Reid said that money could not be used to make the repairs to the roof and foundation that Grant needed.

The economic downturn will affect funding for school districts for the foreseeable future, Reid said. "It is a frightening thing, and I know you will come through it."

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