An Oklahoma school that has been open since statehood is closing its doors.
The only school in Byars in McClain County will shut down when class lets out in May. The problem is dwindling enrollment and lack of funds. This is a problem facing many rural school districts across the state.
Following a recent vote to annex, Wayne Public Schools takes over Byars School on March 2nd. Without a doubt, no one wanted to see Byars School close.
“The kids, they grow up in this small town, they need friends in this small town and they may not get that in a bigger school,” said Tonya Dial, a Byars School parent.
Byars School opened in 1908, right after Oklahoma became a state. It once housed high school students too, but is now pre-k through 8th grade.
Dial went to school there and now three of her children do, too.
“These kids are going to go somewhere else,” Dial explained. “They are not going to be here in this small town, they are going to grow up with kids they won't get to see as often,” she added.
Byars' state funding depends on student enrollment. This year, student enrollment is down to 41 students.
Wayne Public Schools and Byars School took advantage of a shared superintendent law three years ago, which saved Byars around $70,000. However, it only delayed the inevitable.
“They've done a great job keeping it open, but finally enrollment is down so low that we just can't sustain it,” said David Powell, the superintendent for Wayne Public Schools and Byars School.
When the school received its state funding for the year back in August, it was not enough to make it through the whole school year.
The Byars School board voted to annex to Wayne, but will keep the kids at Byars to finish out the year to avoid disruptions.
“Certainly our school is going to welcome and embrace Byars as much as possible,” Superintendent Powell told News 9.
With it being the students' last year, the school, parents and the community want to make it memorable.
They made up shirts with the Byars eagle mascot and the years written out “1908-2015.”
“Celebrate the good, the memories, just remind them that they are coming from something great,” said Dial.
While Wayne Public Schools has annexed Byars, students are allowed to openly transfer to other nearby schools, like Straford, Asher and Wanette.
The superintendent said he is working with Byars city leaders to try to somehow preserve the Byars school building.