Changes proposed for Naval Avenue and West Hills

Betty Hyde, left, and Gretchen Peters, principal, discuss possible changes with parents at Naval Avenue Elementary School. - Photo by James Mange
Betty Hyde, left, and Gretchen Peters, principal, discuss possible changes with parents at Naval Avenue Elementary School.
— image credit: Photo by James Mange

Instead of just trying to keep the two smallest West Side elementary schools open, a proposed change could make them magnets. Bremerton Schools District superintendent Betty Hyde will be pitching a plan to move the fourth and fifth graders at Naval Avenue to West Hills Elementary at the May 17 school board meeting.

Faced with declining enrollment districtwide, and particularly at the west side schools, some have sought to close one, most likely Naval Avenue.

“We don’t want to combine them,” Hyde said. “We want to grow. We want to build a stronger Naval Avenue school.”

The plan would impact about 75 students who would be bussed the short distance to West Hills. The Montessori preschool program currently at West Hills would shift to Naval Avenue, where the focus would change to transforming the school into an early education center. Naval Avenue is the planned site for the start of the Spanish immersion program that would start with a kindergarten class next fall. Plans are being made for an increased enrichment strand for all the students at the school, with offerings in Spanish, Japanese, fine arts and the performing arts.

A parent education center would also be created at Naval Avenue, in part to help parents with children in the immersion program keep up with their children’s learning.

School officials highlight the move would also be beneficial for the fourth and fifth graders.

“We’re excited about it at West Hills,” said principal Flint Walpole. “We think it would be good for all the students, and good for our staff.”

Currently Naval Avenue has one fourth grade class, one fifth grade class, and one combined fourth/fifth room. West Hills has two fourth and two fifth grade classes. Combining the groups would allow for more differentiation in subject studies, challenging each student at their appropriate level.

A parent information meeting was held Wednesday at Naval Avenue Elementary, and Hyde shared statistics that show West Hills students are already excelling in academics, particularly in math and science. The improved instructional differentiation that would be created by the move should help send test scores even higher.

“If people are moving, they have a right to know what they’re moving to,” Hyde said.

If the plan is approved by the board, administrators at both schools would coordinate interaction between the students before the end of this school year, and a summer program would run to help students get acquainted.

“We’ve always considered Naval Avenue our sister school,” Walpole said. “The kids won’t be new kids, they’d be West Hills kids.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mike Brown, a Bremerton parent who works with the Boys and Girls Club, “because you’re creating a desire to be here.”

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