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Closing an elementary school is a possibility in the North Kitsap School District

POULSBO — After years of rejecting the idea, the North Kitsap School Board is considering closing an elementary school.

By the end of January, the North Kitsap School Board and district administrators plan to name a committee to discuss the possibilities of closing a school. The closure would be a measure to counteract declining enrollment and the reduction of state and federal money provided to the district.

No vote was needed for Superintendent Richard Jones to form the committee. He said he "has been given clear direction to move forward" with the plan by the school board.

According to documents available on the district website, elementary schools are 894 students below capacity. The district has too many schools with current enrollment, board member Bill Webb said. By 2015, the district’s elementary school enrollment is expected to grow by 160, but that's still too few students to warrant having seven elementary schools, he said.

"The last thing I want to do, next to increasing class sizes, is close a school," Webb said.

"But I think I agree with [Jones] on this. It's time to really look at it and see if [closing a school] is a decision we need to make.

"I apologize in advance and I'll wait for the slings and arrows that I know will come during this process," Webb continued.

Closing an elementary school would save the district an estimated $837,750 a year, according to documents. Individual savings include: utilities ($24,000), custodians ($96,000), maintenance and supplies ($4,500), and food services ($35,000). Staff and administration would be reduced as well, which includes: principal ($115,700), office staff ($75,700), support staff ($285,350), two teachers ($160,000), and two para-educators ($41,5000). The numbers above reflect salaries at top of their range. According to the documents, transportation is estimated to be neutral in savings; savings could be generated if administrator better balance bus loading and travel distances.

Jones said the extra room in the elementary schools was a result of the grade configuration change in 2007. The change was a result of Kingston High School opening and a change of grades in elementary schools to K-5, middle schools 6-8, and high schools 9-12.

As of now, there is no expectation of class sizes increasing if an elementary closed, Jones said. Though jobs would be lost, the majority of teachers and their support staff would remain with the students, he said. However, it is unknown at this time how students would be dispersed throughout the district. That's part of the committee’s work, Jones said.

"We need to look at the available space and say OK, what makes the most sense for moving students around with the least disruption across our families," he said. Transportation time could increase, but how much  is not known at this time.

With a focus on finding a new superintendent and contemplating another levy, Lael Stock — a parent and member of the athletics and advisory committee — said it's not the right time to look at school closures. She said it is good to form a committee, but all the alternatives need to be looked at. Echoing Breidablik interim principal Glen Robbins, she said a school closure could tear a community apart.

However, a committee charged with finding out the ramifications of closing a school does not mean it is going to happen. The idea of closing a school has come up for years, but has always been rejected by the board. School Board President Kathleen Dassel said the board "just needs to know."

Of the 11 schools in the district, Kingston High School is the only school with enrollment exceeding school capacity. Kingston's capacity is 868 students. Based on enrollment numbers from November, there are 895.

 

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