Bellevue School Board to vote on school closures
As school districts across the region and state face declining enrollment and budget shortfalls, the Bellevue School Board will decide the fate of two elementary schools on Thursday.
Wilburton and Eastgate elementary schools are on the chopping block as part of a recently revised school consolidation plan. If the board votes to close the schools, Wilburton students would be sent to Clyde Hill and Enatai elementary schools starting next school year. Eastgate students will be directed to Spiritridge Elementary School, and Spiritridge’s advanced learning program would be relocated to Woodridge Elementary.
District administrators have said they don’t plan to sell any of the school buildings recommended for consolidation and that they anticipate all staff at the affected schools will be retained.
Thursday’s vote follows weeks of community debate since interim Superintendent Art Jarvis first presented a potential school consolidation plan in February. It was met with criticism from some parents who feel district officials are moving too fast and haven’t involved the community enough in the process.
A month later, after the district hosted several community meetings, Jarvis unveiled a revised plan that took Ardmore Elementary off the closure list. Instead, Jarvis said the school can house the district’s new Arabic language program. He also suggested district staff could focus their efforts on attracting and retaining additional enrollment there.
In a letter to families announcing the updated school consolidation recommendations last week, Jarvis reiterated the “magnitude of the situation.” Enrollment in Bellevue schools has declined by nearly 2,000 students over the last three years, leading to a projected $20 million revenue decline next year, when the state stops basing district per-pupil funding on pre-pandemic student counts.
Administrators expect the situation will only worsen: Enrollment is expected to shrink by 8% over the next decade.
Many other districts are facing the same predicament as enrollment declines, temporary Covid relief funds from federal and state governments run out, and student needs remain heightened.
Facing a $131 million budget deficit, Seattle Public Schools notified at least 30 employees earlier this month that their jobs may be eliminated in the coming months. And the Everett School Board recently approved a cost-cutting plan in which officials can slash up to 142 full-time positions and shut down an online academy, according to the Everett Herald.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Eastgate students would be directed to Somerset Elementary.