Deer Creek school packs up

Goodbyes take on a monumental tone this school year in Deer Creek. With balloons, the school song and waves, school staff and students say goodbye to a school that has more than 100 years of history as the last batch of fifth- and sixth-graders l...

Goodbyes take on a monumental tone this school year in Deer Creek.

With balloons, the school song and waves, school staff and students say goodbye to a school that has more than 100 years of history as the last batch of fifth- and sixth-graders leaves May 25.

The noon bus departure will be led by the Deer Creek Fire Department.

In the fall, the teachers and students will go to school in Wadena. The Deer Creek school will see a new group of students, as Freshwater Education District uses the building next school year.

The Wadena School District consolidated with the Deer Creek School District in 1991. Since then, the WDC fifth- and sixth-graders attended school in Deer Creek while grades kindergarten-fourth and seventh-12th attended school in Wadena.


Last fall, the Wadena-Deer Creek school board voted to close the school. Due to declining enrollment, the district needed to save money. At the same time, some Freshwater Education District programs needed a new building. By closing the school, moving Deer Creek school students to Wadena and Freshwater Education District renting the building, the school will save about $293,000 annually, said Jerome Enget, WDC superintendent.

In fall 2006, Freshwater will rent one-third of the building, but the district would like to rent all of it, if possible, Enget said.

Wadena-Deer Creek grades kindergarten through 12 will be housed in Wadena. Students, teachers and community members are preparing for the move to Wadena, but also see a loss of business in Deer Creek and the loss of a small school, family-like atmosphere.

Effect on Deer Creek

Community members say they believe the end of traditional classes at the Deer Creek school will affect the Deer Creek community.

Anytime we lose a business, we lose a part of the town, said Bob Wierima, mayor of Deer Creek.

For many people, the school was a big part of the city.

It takes the heart right out of the community, said Frank Tranby, a community member.


Some events the school offered to the community were varsity sports games, fifth- and sixth-grade programs and community education events.

It was always a big part of the community, said Lance Wohlwend, former assistant principal and teacher at Deer Creek. Wohlwend taught at the school for 33 years.

Wierima said he thinks Deer Creek businesses will lose business.

We wont have the traffic, he said.

School atmosphere

Just as the community will miss fifth- and sixth- graders going to the school, the fifth- and sixth- graders will miss attending the school.

Tiffany Shultz, WDC fifth-grader, said shell miss the projects at Deer Creek.

Amanda West, WDC fifth-grader, said she would rather stay in Deer Creek than go to sixth grade in Wadena. There are too many little kids in Wadena, she said.


Adam Schultz, WDC sixth-grader, said he thinks the closing of the Deer Creek school is horrible. My little sister cant go to sixth grade here, he said. His sister is in fifth grade.

Schultz said he likes how he was able to go outside and play in Deer Creek.

Ben Birch, WDC sixth-grader, doesnt want the school to close.

The school is like where I live, he said. All my family went here.

Bob Lund, a custodian who has worked in Deer Creek since 1979, said a person could ask 1,000 kids if they liked going to the school, and they all would say that they loved it.

Its their own place, Lund said. Fifteen acres of freedom. Everything is here.

Lund will continue to work in Deer Creek in the fall, but many of the staff will follow the fifth- and sixth-graders to Wadena.

Many of the staff worked at the school for more than two decades.


It has been wonderful, said Sandy Friedrich, a teacher who started in teaching in Deer Creek in 1977. I could not have asked for a better place.

Staff members often comment on the family-like atmosphere of the school.

Everybody knows everybody, native Tranby said. Sometimes they know something about you, you didnt even know yourself.

Wohlwend said that students were given individual attention in a small school environment.

It was a great atmosphere and great staff that cared about and nurtured every student at a critical time in their life, he said.

Vicki Pearson, administrative assistant at Deer Creek for 27 years, said the school was the perfect fit for fifth- and sixth-graders.

It gives fifth- and sixth- graders two years to grow emotionally, and their self esteem is better able to handle a junior high environment, she said.

She thinks the reputation of the small school environment made the kids excited to go to school in Deer Creek.


The older the school has gotten, the more pride the students and staff take in it, Pearson said. Our staff becomes more knowledgeable and experienced to the needs of the kids.


The schools history branches back to 1872, when a petition was started to organize a school district.

According to a booklet from the All-School Reunion of 1999, the Deer Creek School has the following history:

" The petition was accepted in September 1872 and the new district, 38, included all of Deer Creek and Leaf Lake townships.

"Stories about the first school differ. One story says the first school was a small log building with a dirt roof, whereas another story says the first school term was in a log shanty.

" In 1890, a new school was built, which was lost by a fire. A brick building was built in 1920, which was destroyed by a fire in 1953.

" The present school in Deer Creek was dedicated on Oct. 24, 1954.


" In 1991 the Deer Creek School District agreed to consolidate with the Wadena School District.

Deer Creek couldnt operate with the amount of kids it had, Deer Creek mayor Wierima said. We needed to do something.

Wierima said people were both for and against consolidating with Wadena, but he thought the consolidation with the fifth and sixth-graders in Deer Creek went well.

The closing of the Deer Creek school is not the only school closing Tranby has seen. Tranby remembers a school closing in 1958 at a country school down the road from him. People thought it was the end of the world, but they had to accept the school closing, Tranby said.

People hate to see change, he said.

Future of Deer Creek

As the last day of school nears, faculty and students are preparing for the move to Wadena.

Theres quite a bit of packing going on, said Bernie St. Peter, administrative assistant at Deer Creek. Its going to keep us hopping up to the last minute.

Along with being an administrative assistant and teacher in Deer Creek, St. Peter taught in Wadena, which he also enjoyed.

Overall, WDC together is a great district, Bernie St. Peter said. No matter what building, its been a great place to work in.

Teacher Friedrich is looking forward to getting to know the staff in Wadena better.

As the fifth- and sixth-graders move to the elementary school in Wadena, the school in Deer Creek will be used by Freshwater for White Pines and day treatment.

White Pines Academy, now housed in Staples, is for students who have not been successful in the classroom because of behavioral problems. The emphasis is on teaching students to relate effectively with other students with the goal of the students being able to return to regular classrooms. White Pines Academy students meet in classes of four to six students. They meet five days a week.

Day treatment uses a therapeutic approach for students with emotional problems or disorders. The students spend part of their day in therapy and part of their day learning. The students in the program meet with a therapist, and a practitioner meets with the family. Like White Pines, the goal of day treatment is to bring students back into the regular classroom setting.

Though the building will no longer house the fifth- and sixth-graders or the independent Deer Creek School district, Wohlwend said the kids will remember going to school at Deer Creek.

Itll always be a part of them, he said.

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