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Olympic View becomes budget casualty

Annie Darbonne knew the decision was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to take the news. Darbonne — the president of Olympic View Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association and the school’s most adamant supporter — sat in the front row at a Thursday night Bremerton School District meeting while the board members voted 4-1 to close the school next year. The decision was based on a projected $1.2 million shortfall the district is facing in the 2004-05 academic year.

Board Member Pat Jones made the motion to close the school, but added three stipulations: The students be split between Armin Jahr Elementary School and View Ridge Elementary School so no children have to be bused from East Bremerton to West Bremerton; The parents have input on how the new attendance lines are drawn; and Olympic View Elementary parents have a choice to send their children to Naval Avenue Elementary School if they wish.

There are currently 81 students who live in the Naval Avenue Elementary attendance zone but attend Armin Jahr Elementary. Next year, those students will go back to Naval Avenue Elementary.

Board members Jones, Cynthia Galloway, DeWayne Boyd and Vickie Collins voted to close the school, while Louis Mitchell voted against the idea.

After the decision was rendered and the board took a recess from the meeting, Darbonne cried while other parents offered hugs of consolation.

“Tonight was a sad night for our parents and children. A place we love is closing,” she said. “While we have always had a will to make this good, our kids are taking the financial hit of this entire district. We expect the district to launch a new beginning and act upon the board's recommendation to actively engage the parents in discussions regarding placement.”

The district held four well-attended public hearings to gather input on the possibility of closing either Olympic View Elementary or Naval Avenue Elementary School.

Darbonne said the discussion did have a positive impact on the community because it rallied the parents around the school and created a bond that otherwise may not have been there.

She, like many parents, said she didn’t think the district’s administrators took their concerns into account when making the decision.

“The one thing that bothered me in all of this, was the district's attitude toward the parents who asked some very valid questions and expressed some genuine concerns,” she said. “I hope now that the decision has been made, they will put aside their biases and cooperate with our needs and respect the position we are in with our children. We are genuinely worried about our kids. I hope the board and district are prepared to be accountable for their decisions.”

Lucretia Bell, parent of a Olympic View Elementary student, voiced a similar viewpoint.

During the school closure committee, only seven parents were involved, she said. The other 28 people responsible for the recommendation to close Olympic View Elementary were teachers and administrators. Now, Bell is concerned that the parents may be brushed by the wayside when the district lines are drawn.

“I don’t want some administrator or teacher planning my child’s move to a new school,” Bell said.

The recommendation to close Olympic View Elementary came from Assistant Superintendent Roy Okamoto in early March after an elementary school closure task force met for several months and didn’t make a recommendation.

The task force met for two months to study and debate over whether a local elementary school should be closed to save money. The projected budget shortfall is being caused by several factors: declining enrollment at the elementary school level because of declining birth rates in Kitsap County, stagnant revenues from the state and increased overhead costs in operating the school district.

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