North Kitsap Vikaneer

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Board, community weigh in on school closure during first of three hearings

February 8th, 2013 at Fri, 8th, 2013 at 2:54 pm by rwalker



POULSBO — The community heard the “key factors” that will help the North Kitsap School Board determine which elementary school to close this year.

Board President Dan Weedin had the five-member board list the factors that would guide the closure decision during the first of three public hearings Feb. 7. The main focus of the meeting was Gordon Elementary, one of three schools on the list of potential closures.

School capacity, transportation, and overall cost and savings were the top items for Weedin. How much a school costs versus how much closing a school saves was one of the top factors for the board.

The board is expected to make its decision at its Feb. 28 regular meeting.

Two more public hearings are scheduled: Feb. 14, to consider the merits of closing Breidablik Elementary; and Feb. 21, to consider the pros and cons of closing Wolfle Elementary. The meetings begin with a board study session from 5:15-6 p.m., followed by a public hearing from 6-7 p.m.

Before the meeting started, most if not all the seats had been filled. The comment list was long for those in support of keeping Gordon open. Though each person received only three minutes to speak — the normal allotted time for comment at a board meeting — more than 10 people didn’t get a chance to speak publicly.

Gordon third-grade teacher Bethany LaHaie said the message from the staff at Gordon is: support. Community outcry about a school’s possible closure, she said, indicates all schools are doing a good job.

However, while programs and staff members can be moved if Gordon is closed, there are some school features that can’t be moved. Physical education instructor Tony Bainbridge talked about the school’s learning pods with moveable walls, and a multipurpose room that’s separate from the gymnasium. Fifth-grade teacher Terry Cowen talked about the money raised by the PTA for a sidewalk from the school to Barber Cut Off Road ($11,000), and a reader board ($4,800). Another speaker talked about more than $30,000 of community investment in the Gordon gardens.

School location came up more than once: Gordon is located within walking distance of Kingston Middle and Kingston High schools. Bobbie Moore, chairwoman of the Village Green Metropolitan Park District, said having a “three-school campus” is not an accident — it’s the result of 20 years of planning.

The school board decided to close a school after several years of enrollment declines and budget reductions. The district’s budget was cut by about $2.4 million by 2012-13. Staffing was reduced by 14.7 full-time equivalent positions — from 369.95 to 355.25 FTEs.

Closing a school is estimated to save the district between $300,000 to $500,000 per year, but actual savings are expected to be on the lower side.

A School Closure Committee met nine times between Aug. 28 and Jan. 14, and voted on three schools for closure consideration. Breidablik received the most votes (74), followed by Gordon (71). Though Wolfle had fewer votes (42) than Vinland (48), Vinland was removed from the list, as was Suquamish (32).

In an unofficial poll on North Kitsap Vikaneer, 82 people voted on which of the three schools should close. Breidablik received 59 votes, Wolfle 13, and Gordon 10.

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