STAR I.S.D. to shut down and consolidate with larger district - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

STAR I.S.D. to shut down and consolidate with larger district

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Star Independent School District in Mills County, about 75 miles west of Waco, joins a number of small districts forced to shut down and consolidate.

For the past seven years Star has fought to stay open - despite low enrollment and low funding.

In May, voters from Goldthwaite and Star independent school districts will vote on whether or not there will be a consolidation.

Either way the school is forced to shut down and faculty and staff will lose their jobs, according to Star superintendent Barbara Marchbanks.

"The school is the center of the community," said 88-year-old J.D. Hunt, a board member who is also known as "Mr. Star." He has been on the school board for about 36 years.

He graduated from Star and then served as a marine in World War II.  He returned to Star and became a custodian. He would soon serve on the school board, never miss a basketball game and become "Mr. Star."

"Since 1980," said Hunt. "I have been there ever since and no one runs against me."

He met his wife at Star, his sons went to Star and even the stadium is named after him.

He has feared losing Star I.S.D. for a while now.

"It's a sad day for us, but we could see it coming. Someday there will only be one school in Mills County."

Wednesday night's school board meeting confirmed his fears.

"He was sitting there after the adjournment," Star superintendent, Barbara Marchbanks said.

"And he looked over at me and he said ‘Ms. Marchbanks – is that it? Is it over?' I said, ‘Yes sir. It's over.' And he just slumped in his chair. And it was like the life went out of him."

Once a school district hits below 90 students, the state's funding goes down considerably, according to Marchbanks. Star has 56 students all on one campus. She says low enrollment is a direct correlation with parents finding employment elsewhere. 

But the low numbers are what have kept this district a tight-knit community. 

Strolling along the small building, you can see rows of lockers without a single lock.  Marchbanks says it is because they are like a family.

"We have such a unique culture here that you don't see anywhere else in the cities anymore," she said.  "And Star - once the school is gone many times the community dies. And that hurts. It really hurts."

When Marchbanks began work at Star I.S.D seven years ago, the previous superintendent told her to prepare to close the school within a year.

She managed to keep Star running until their last year.  She hopes to make it their best year.

"I told my staff today. I sent them a letter and I said, ‘Things are hard, but we are going to keep our chin up and we are going to have the best year ever.'"

Currently the school board is considering using the facility as a discipline alternative education campus. And the library may be turned into a museum, according to Marchbanks.

Star I.S.D. isn't the first small district to consolidate.  During the 1930-1938 period Plainview, Center City, Pleasant Grove, Payne Gap, Moline, Hurst Ranch and McGirk schools consolidated with Star.

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