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UPDATED | Supporters refute district reports on Trafton, plead with Board to keep school open

ARLINGTON — Trafton School supporters brought their own statistical analysis of the 122-year-old school on Monday, May 24, during the second of two public hearings regarding its possible closure.

Those numbers, shared by Terri Forslof, spokeswoman for the "Keep Trafton Alive" community group, ran counter to some of the cost-savings and repair estimates district officials have been using during their budgetary planning for the 2010-11 school year.

Forslof, who also represented the group during the School Board's first public hearing May 10, presented a line-by-line breakdown of the school district's projected cost-savings if Trafton were to be closed.

Instead of the district saving approximately $273,000 in operating costs if Trafton was shut down, Forslof argued that that number would realistically be about $182,000.

Additionally, those savings will be nullified by a 20 percent to 30 percent loss in Trafton enrollment should the district decide to close the school, she said.

School districts receive state funding based the number of enrolled students, meaning that fewer students would be less district revenue.

"(That) is a realistic expectation of students being lost," Forslof said about the closure.

The hearing was the final chance for community members, parents, teachers and students to let the School Board know their feelings on Trafton, a school-of-choice with an enrollment of about 140 students.

In March, the Arlington School Board approved a 90-day district review of the school to see whether closing Trafton would be a viable option in wake of the district's then-projected $2.3 million shortfall for next school year.

That projection was reduced in April to between $1.6 million to $1.8 million.

As part of the district review, the School Board held two public hearings, and is slated to make its final decision on Trafton June 14.

Part of the Board's decision to review the school came from an analysis report prepared by Sid Logan, the school district's executive director of operations.

In addition to stating that the district would save about $273,000 in operations costs if it shut down Trafton, the report also said that the school district could save approximately $1 million in renovation costs needed bring the school up to standard.

Since the report was released to the public, Trafton supporters have been asking questions regarding those numbers, causing Logan to issue an addendum to the report.

The addendum identified the school's most immediate needs as fixing the leaky bell cupula on top of the building ($18,000 projected cost), replacing a 1968 portable ($18,000 projected cost to move a portable from Eagle Creek) and refinishing and resealing the restroom in Trafton's main building (no cost projected).

Forslof said during the May 24 meeting that her group has received written pledges for donations from the community and area businesses to pay for the bell cupola, the portable and the restroom repairs.

As for the $1 million in renovation costs, Forslof said that it "including fixing things that weren't broken."

Forslof's data wasn't the only input the Board received during the second public hearing.

Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, an Arlington resident, sported a Trafton ribbon on his shirt as told Board members that he understands the impact of the difficult decision.

"I think that there are options besides closing Trafton," he said. "It might be a short-term solution to a long-term problem."

Anne Yeckley, co-chair of the Trafton Parent Club's facilities sub-committee, said that the Board does not have the proper information to make their decision. Yeckley suggested that instead of the district reviewing Trafton, it should have done a blind analysis to see if closing a different school would save more money.

"Please take your time to do the right thing," Yeckley said.

Former Trafton student John Kroze, who started at the school in 1915, mustered loud applause when he spoke to the Board.

"I hope it goes for another 50 years," the 101-year-old Kroze said.

Thirty-two individuals total spoke during the hearing, said Misti Gilman, spokeswoman for the Arlington School District.

A copy of the district's report on Trafton can be found here, while the addendum report is located here.

UPDATE: The Arlington School District has posted a second addendum addressing the concerns brought up during the May 10 public hearing.

The 84-page addendum also includes more than 50 letters submitted to the School Board and district officials relating to the possible closure of the school.

Approximately 30 letters from parents, former students and elected officials supported keeping Trafton open, while about 25 were opposed to it.

Names and addresses of those who submitted letters were removed for privacy purposes with the exception of Washington state Sen. Val Stevens and Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, who both supported keeping the school open.

Those letters ranged from February until May, with most of the letters supporting Trafton coming earlier this year.

The second addendum can be viewed here.

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