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Parents, McDuffy discuss future of Arlington's Trafton School

“Keep Trafton Alive” sub-committee chair Mike Ray, left, talks to Superintendent Kris McDuffy on Wednesday, April 7, while Esther Van Der Berg looks on. - Adam Rudnick
“Keep Trafton Alive” sub-committee chair Mike Ray, left, talks to Superintendent Kris McDuffy on Wednesday, April 7, while Esther Van Der Berg looks on.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Ester Van Der Berg has seen the Trafton debate before — after all, she’s had two children go through the 120-year-old school.

“You’re too new to the area to know it,” Van Der Berg told Arlington Superintendent Kris McDuffy during a budget forum at the school April 7. “We’ve faced this before. Every time you hear budget talk, you hear talking about Trafton.”

Van Der Berg was among about 15 parents and 10 staff members to attend the meeting. It was the second of 18 community budget forums being held by McDuffy in Arlington schools and facilities.

The idea of the “Cookies and Conversation with Kris” meetings is to gather input from parents and staff, and to answer questions as they relate to the district’s budgetary challenges, McDuffy said.

While about 12 staff members attended McDuffy’s

first forum at Haller Middle School on April 6, parents filled up a portable during her second forum at Trafton.

McDuffy and attendees spent most of the hour-and-a-half long meeting talking about Trafton and its future.

Because the district could have to cut up to an estimated $2.3 million out of next year’s budget, the School Board approved in March a 90-day district review to see whether closing Trafton would be a viable option.

That review prompted the school’s parent teacher club to mobilize its efforts to save the school. Trafton parent Mike Ray started a club sub-committee called “Keep Trafton Alive” and club members have been in discussion with McDuffy, district staff and community members about the future of the school.

Many of the Trafton club’s members were at the April 7 meeting, including Ray, Valerie Kellogg and Anne Yeckler — co-chairs of the Trafton club’s facilities sub-committee.

McDuffy began her presentation by outlining the school’s budgeting process, which will take place until the Board formally approves the 2010-11 budget in August.

The district won’t be able to address specific cuts until after the state House, Senate and Gov. Christine Gregoire come to an agreement on the state budget.

That number was not available to The Arlington Times at press time.

Once the state budget has been revealed, school districts will know exactly how much they will have to cut, McDuffy said.

“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” she said. “We really are looking at every line item to save people’s jobs.”

In addition to talking about the budgetary process, McDuffy also spoke about the district’s enrollment challenges.

The district has excess capacity — meaning that it has open classrooms — as it pertains to state funding. McDuffy said that there are combined 28 empty classrooms worth of students at the elementary school level.

While enrollment drives the district’s budget, parents and staff who attended the budget forum were more interested in how any potential cuts would affect Trafton.

A number of attendees asked McDuffy why Trafton, which has not seen an enrollment dip and whose students were among the district’s best-achieving, was being considered for closure while others schools were not.

McDuffy said at this point that the district is looking at all options they have, and remained vague on those other options.

“The last thing a new superintendent wants to do is come in and close a school,” McDuffy said. “We’re examining every possible scenario.”

Yeckler said that she felt some of the claims made in a report prepared by Sid Logan, the district’s executive director of operations, were untrue.

Logan prepared a 60-page review of Trafton for the School Board. In addition to addressing the school’s safety, the review stated that closing the school would save the district approximately $273,000 in operating costs.

“I feel like this is a safe place for my children — we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was,” Yeckler said. “A lot of Logan’s reasons to close the schools were not valid.”

McDuffy will be holding two budget forums — one at the district’s support services building (7 a.m.) and another at Pioneer Elementary School (3:50 p.m.) on Thursday, April 15.

For a complete list of forums and other public hearings, click here.

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