I would like to express my sympathy for both the parents of students at Trafton Elementary and the Arlington School Board. As a school board member myself for eight years in Oregon, I know only too well how difficult it is to close a historic school. Our board found it necessary to make a similar heart-wrenching decision in order to preserve academic programs for our students. Such decisions are never made lightly.
Eighty-five percent of school budgets in Oregon were tied to staff salaries and benefits, with only 15 percent left for everything else, and I suspect the situation is not much different in Washington. One of the only ways to save significant money was by closing buildings. Our board made the same hard decision that the Arlington School Board faced because there were no other better choices. I hope the Trafton parents will reconsider the lawsuit. The cost to the school district only means other cuts to student programs that will be painful for everyone.
It is vital that citizens attend school board and budget meetings regularly to understand the reasoning behind how money is spent, what federal mandates must be funded — like it or not — and how frustrating it is for board members to make cuts that no one wants to see happen to balance a budget. Hopefully there will be a solution that will let Arlington continue to offer all its students a rich and varied school experience.