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By Joe Block 

Arena featured in national story


June 21, 2018

The New York Times featured an article on the closing of Arena’s only school on June 13th. The River Valley School District, facing declining enrollment, voted to close Arena Community Elementary in December 2016, as well as a neighboring school in Lone Rock.

In November of 2016 the District held a referendum, requesting $9.3 million in taxes to keep the schools open. It failed by 207 votes.

The article highlights the difficulties facing small Midwestern school districts. Districts like River Valley are faced with the prospect of closing small local elementary schools in favor of consolidation or those closer to population centers.

Residents quoted in the article expressed concern for the town of Arena itself. There is hope to turn the former elementary school into something for the community.

“We are approaching this in a positive manner and we have a four-person citizen group working with the school district on repurposing the building,” said Village of Arena president Paul Pustina. “The Village is supporting their work and the group’s work and progress has been great. The School District has been a big help in this project.”

“Economics played a part in the closing and economics will play a part in the Village taking it over. Prospective plans are for the building to house the Village offices, Police Department, Historical Society and Food Pantry. Since the books in the library are staying, this gives us an opportunity to expand our reading room and make steps towards establishing a library. Most of the kitchen equipment will stay and small companies that do not have access to a commercial kitchen and would like to lease the kitchen out, would have that opportunity. The playground equipment stays and so research for a day care is also being done. The gym can be used for recreation programs. Classrooms can be used for youth and adult learning programs, meetings and such. There are many possibilities.”

He continued, “With work and support from the Village and Town residents, the building can be a great example of how an unfortunate happening can be turned around into something positive for the area.”

The article can be found online at


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