Talk of closing school soft-peddled by district

5:57 am March 1st, 2013

Eatonville School District officials looking for ways to reduce expenses are studying options, including the possibility of closing a school.
Columbia Crest Elementary School’s student enrollment is low enough to raise questions about keeping it open if its students could be added to another of the district’s elementary schools.
District officials emphasized last week that no decisions have been made and that a report and recommendations from administrators will be reviewed by the School Board before action, if any, is taken.
Board president Bob Homan said closing Columbia Crest, which has been considered in past years, “is a possibility” the board would rather avoid.
“We’ve always wanted to keep it open if we can,” Homan said. But he noted enrollment districtwide has gone down 200 students in recent years, making it necessary for officials to review ways to offset the impact of fewer students on the district’s budget. State funding of public schools is tied to the number of students in a district.
Columbia Crest has 147 students. The district has two other elementary schools. The one with the largest enrollment is Eatonville, holding relatively steady at 385 students, said Rich Stewart, the district’s superintendent. Weyerhaeuser has 250, a number that’s expected to drop to 225 next school year based on enrollment projections.
Discussion in the past of Columbia Crest for possible closure has met resistance from families of its students and likely would again. A recent Facebook posting expressed concern about sending Columbia Crest students to other schools and increasing class sizes there, and urged parents to attend board meetings “and voice your concern.”
Columbia Crest was built in 1951 on State Route 706 between Elbe and Ashford. It’s closer to Mount Rainier National Park (seven miles to the Nisqually entrance) than it is to the next nearest school, Eatonville Elementary, which is about 16 miles away.
Academics at Columbia Crest received positive attention statewide last year when it was named as one of seven schools in Washington to each receive a $10,000 award for meeting federal standards for their students’ improvement in reading or math.

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