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Superior Court upholds decision to close Breidablik School
POULSBO — The North Kitsap School Board's decision to close Breidablik Elementary School has been upheld by the Kitsap County Superior Court.
Superior Court Judge Anna M. Laurie issued her ruling Sept. 13.
"Based on the foregoing analysis, the school board made a reasoned decision with room for multiple opinions and therefore the decision was not arbitrary and capricious," the court ruling states.
The school board voted unanimously Feb. 28 to close the school, effective the end of the 2012-13 school year. The decision was based on the recommendation of the district's School Closure Committee, which met for a year and a half to study several schools suggested for possible closure.
Though the appeal’s cost to the district had not been determined as of Monday, Superintendent Patty Page estimated the cost at about $30,000. It could be higher, she said. The cost includes attorney fees and staff time. The district had to transcribe all meetings and study sessions the school board held involving the closure for the court to review.
Page said the district still has more work to do. "We are exploring recovery costs," she said. "We are looking into what the options are."
District administration is now exploring its options for putting the elementary school property on the market for lease, and is in talks with real estate agents who specialize in commercial leases, Page said.
According to court documents, appellants alleged the decision to close Breidablik School was flawed and biased, and that the committee relied on inaccurate and biased data. The court reviewed the decision in order to rule whether the board was arbitrary, capricious or contrary to law in making its decision.
Action is arbitrary and capricious when it is "willful and unreasoning action, action without consideration and in disregard of the facts and circumstances of the case," according to the court.
Nicole Flowers, Kari McKinsey and “Concerned Families of Breidablik” asked the court to review the Feb. 28 decision, according to court documents obtained by the Herald. The appellants' children attended Breidablik and “have been adversely affected by the decision,” the document states.
Flowers wasn’t surprised by the court’s decision. “It was a hard angle to prove,” she said Monday. “I knew there were some things that were ethically and morally wrong [in the school board’s decision], but it wasn’t against the law.” She said recent developments have proved her right. “Buses are overcrowded, classes are overcrowded, their [enrollment] numbers were off,” she said.
School closure was a topic of discussion for several years because of declining enrollment in the district and budget shortfalls. The process to close a school began Jan. 12, 2012; Richard Jones, the superintendent at the time, formed the School Closure Committee.
“I’m very pleased that the Superior Court ruled the way it did,” School Board President Dan Weedin said Monday. “I thought the judge’s comments showed she did a tremendous amount of work going through a year and a half of work — she did a great job not only doing due diligence, but in writing it out.”
Regarding the decision to close Breidablik and the process leading up to it, Weedin said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It was painful, but we were really honest about this up front, that it was going to be painful. And not only for school, but for the district as a whole, because so many schools had to be involved in the process.
“I think we did the right thing by not closing a school back in January or February of the previous year. We did the right thing by reconvening the committee — the meetings and the work that went into it. It was a hard process.”
"I believe we had a solid process," she said. "We followed the law and district policy and involved the community."
The appellants alleged that the decision to close Breidablik was made before the school board voted, and that the cost of repairs to the school’s roof and septic system were exaggerated.
“That’s ludicrous,” Weedin said of the school board’s decision. “I did not make my decision until eight to 10 days before the 28th of February [when the board voted]. I had no idea on the 28th where my colleagues were on this, because we couldn’t talk about it individually. If people feel that way, it’s because that school was talked about for [closure] for the last five or six years because of a lot of the reasons that ended up happening — the location, the size of the school. But those things didn’t come into play until we went through the process.”