South Whidbey Primary School to shut down this summer

South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy has made his decision: The primary school building on Maxwelton Road in Langley will be vacated and all classes, kindergarten through fifth grade, will be moved to the intermediate building by September.

The fusion of the two buildings into South Whidbey Elementary School has been on the table since January 2007, when a facilities committee recommended the closure in response to declining enrollment.

McCarthy was given two options by the committee.

The first was to move as many classrooms into the intermediate school as possible during the summer. No school board approval is needed because it has already had decided to OK the move.

The second option was similar, but included transferring the entire fifth grade to Langley Middle School; board approval would be needed, but is now unnecessary.

A committee will be set up to handle logistics, so the whole process won't fall to the elementary school staff.

The school district has been reluctant to sell the primary school, built on 34 acres of land in 1968, in case there is reversal in enrollment numbers in the years to come. Officials have explored leasing space to community organizations such as Island County Senior Services and South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District in hopes of generating a revenue stream from the empty classrooms.

The financial need is real.

Combined with reductions in federal dollars and loss of Initiative 728 money, the district faces a loss of $1.2 million this year in the budget, not counting increased costs due to overhead and salary adjustments.

From September 2008 to June 2009, officials project a total of 1,762, or 49 fewer children in local classrooms. Because the state provides $5,382 per student, the district expects a drop in revenue of $258,000.

But by 2010, enrollment is projected to drop by another 112 students for a net loss of $603,000.

State money provides 71.2 percent of school funding. Local tax dollars provide 22.8 percent while the federal government adds 5.7 percent.

The next school board meeting is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 in the elementary school commons room on Maxwelton Road in Langley.

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