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School closure: Options narrowing
KINGSTON — North Kitsap School District’s School Closure Committee will likely have two or three closure options by the next community forum, Nov. 7, Superintendent Patty Page said.
The committee’s time to make a recommendation to the school board is shrinking and the committee is narrowing its options. The committee will make a final closure recommendation before the board’s deadline in February.
Page, the forum facilitator, could not say what those options will be. “I’m not saying because I’m not willing to share, I’m just not sure what those [options] are,” she said.
Ideas considered include closing and selling all the portable buildings in the district; closing a school and moving the district office; and making a middle school K-8. The next forums are scheduled Nov. 7, North Kitsap High School Commons; Dec. 12, Kingston Middle School Commons; and Jan. 16, Poulsbo Middle School Gymnasium. All forums begin at 6:30 p.m.
Most participants in the first community forum Oct. 15 focused on two closure options: closing Pearson Elementary, or moving the district office to Gordon and making Kingston Middle School K-8. There was not much, if any, support for either.
But Page reminded the participants about the response the community had in the 2011-12 school year to a rumor that Breidablik Elementary would close. Nothing was finalized, she said.
The committee was scheduled to meet Oct. 16 and begin the work to narrow the closure options.
Though no decision by the school board has been made, there are buildings that are not likely to close. Neither high school, for example, is likely to close because neither school could accommodate all the students, Page said.
An elementary school is most likely to be closed, Page said. Poulsbo Elementary is least likely to be closed because of its location and increasing population.
The school board is considering closing a school because of declining school enrollment and declining revenue. The district expects to save between $350,000 and $450,000 a year by closing a school, Page said.
According to documents published on the district website (nkschools.org), the district would save the most by closing Vinland Elementary, $713,239.53. Closing Poulsbo Elem-entary would save the district $709,971.76. Savings would come from cutting building expenses and having one fewer principal, office manager, counselor, librarian, music specialist, physical education specialist, and learning specialist.
District administrators have said those savings are on the extreme side. More realistic savings would follow the decisions made after a closure.
If an elementary school is closed, for example, there would be significant costs to move everything needed for faculty and students to another location. If the district office is moved into the closed school, even more moving costs would shrink the savings.
Depending on the closed school, the district has made clear that the school’s instructional programs would move to another school. An AGATE program, for example, would move if the other school didn’t already have one.
Charter school initiative won’t affect decision
Though a proposal to create up to 40 charter schools in Washington state over the next five years is on the ballot, Page said it is not factoring into the district’s closure work.
The initiative states a charter school would have “a right of first refusal to purchase or lease at below fair market value a closed public school facility or property or unused portions of a public school facility or property located in a school district from which is draws its students …,” that is, if the district decided to sell or lease a building. A right of first refusal would give charter school administration first dibs in a building transaction.
Because the decision to close a school was decided before the initiative, a closure will happen if the initiative passes or not, Page said.