UPDATE: Arlington School Board votes to conduct 90-day review of possible closure of Trafton School

ARLINGTON — After two years of narrowly avoiding the Arlington School District's budget cutting board, Trafton Elementary School could close pending school district review.

The School Board approved moving forward with an official 90-day district review regarding closure of the school, which has been in operation since 1888, during its March 8 meeting.

McDuffy said that last school year's $3.8 million in budget reductions, paired with this year's possible $2.5 million in cuts, played a big role in the decision to review whether Trafton should close.

Also adding to that decision is available space within other Arlington schools. McDuffy said that approximately 25 available classrooms within district schools are not being used full-time.

Finally, McDuffy said that the district would be able to save money by not moving forward with Trafton's much-needed facility upgrades.

"There's some cost savings if it closed," McDuffy said.

The district could save approximately $273,000 annually by closing the school, according to a report prepared by district staff.

The decision to recommend the official review comes out of Arlington School Board policy and Washington state law, which state that if a school is being considered for closure, a written analysis must be prepared.

That analysis — a 60-page report that was prepared by Sid Logan, executive director of operations for the school district — was presented to the School Board during its recent meeting.

The compilation of documents maps out Trafton's environmental and safety concerns, facilities needs,

Closing the building would also allow the district to put off renovations needed at the school. According to the report, it would cost the district more than $1 million to repair, replace and upgrade Trafton.

To help answer questions and get input, McDuffy said that she will be leading 18 forums during the review process. Those forums are scheduled to take place between March 15 and April 30.

Also during those 90 days, at least one public hearing will be held to receive community testimony.

"It's to give our community time to analyze and give input," Superintendent Kristine McDuffy told the Board. "We have a lot of opportunities for our community to be involved in this."

McDuffy said that the hearing or hearings have not yet been scheduled, but according to a note that went home with Trafton students March 9, those hearings will take place in May.

During the March 8 meeting, School Board member Jim Weiss asked McDuffy whether the district staff was willing to put in the hours to tackle both the upcoming budget and Trafton issue.

"Absolutely — we've already invested dozens of hours to look at everything we can do to preserve programs for our kids," McDuffy said. "We think this year it's prudent to do the full analysis."

McDuffy added that she has already met with Trafton staff and parents during a meeting that took place earlier this year.

The School Board could make a decision on whether to close Trafton as early as June 14.

The district report can be found here.

Residents are being encouraged by the school district to give feedback on the potential closure. To do so, they can contact the district's public information office at 360-618-6207; attend a budget reduction forum; testify at an upcoming public hearing; complete an electronic contact form at the district Web site; or address the Board during the public comments section of a regular meeting.

The Board's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., March 22 at the district office, located at 315 N. French Avenue.

Trafton Status Report March 2010

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