Families rally to save Trafton Elementary School in Arlington

ARLINGTON — Trafton Elementary School students set the emotional mood for a two-hour public hearing that attracted hundreds of people to an Arlington School Board meeting Monday.

The children sang a song about their school, which could be closed at the end of this year, and carried signs that read “Save our School” and “Keep Trafton Alive.”

“I enjoy being in a school that’s part of history,” Mikayla O’Neill, 7, told the school board as she stood on her toes to reach the microphone. “I love Trafton.”

Forced to address declining revenues, Arlington School Board members in March set a deadline of June 14 to decide the future of Trafton.

The proposed closure of the historic school building could save an estimated $275,000 at a time when the district is looking at a $1.7 million budget shortfall.

Josh Clauson, 31, said he and his six siblings went through Trafton Elementary and now his own son is a third-grade student there.

Anne Yeckley said she and her husband moved to Arlington just so their children could attend Trafton.

“We were so impressed that the school district offered Trafton as an option,” Yeckley said. “If the school closes, some families will go elsewhere and the district will lose more state funding.”

The possible closure of Trafton is under review by the school board in part because district officials see a need for extensive building repairs. The school uses several portable buildings that are about 20 years old, and there is no money to replace them. Room exists at other elementary schools in Arlington for all the students who attend Trafton, and those schools are in better physical shape, school district officials have said.

Terri Forslof, a spokeswoman for the community group Keep Trafton Alive, told the school board that most parents don’t think the rehabilitation of the school is urgent, though many wonder why Trafton hasn’t been better maintained over the years.

The cost of putting the school in mothballs may be more expensive than keeping it open, Forslof said.

Trafton has a stable school population that does well on standardized tests and offers a welcoming, community-based environment for students who do better in a smaller school, Forslof said.

It’s also a state treasure, she said.

The school building is listed on the state Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Established in 1888, Trafton is considered among the oldest continuously operating schools in the state.

For its age, the school is in good shape, some community members said. The historic registry should help in the quest for grant money that could restore the old school, and plenty of volunteers want to help, others said.

Trafton Elementary serves 135 students, kindergartners through fifth-graders, in one classroom per grade. The school has a waiting list of prospective students. Trafton is a school of choice, meaning students from throughout the school district can attend.

Administrative salaries were a target at the hearing as well. Several people asked the board where the other cuts would come.

Six secondary school teachers will receive their reduction-in-force notices this week and some classified staff may see pink slips in early June, Superintendent Kristine McDuffy said earlier.

Arlington Education Association president Eric Grant said about 40 teachers and other educators have lost their jobs during the past three years.

“No one here wants to shut down Trafton Elementary School,” Grant said. “All teachers want small classes like those at Trafton. But we as a society have failed public education. While people on Wall Street got bonuses, we are losing more teachers and counselors and librarians.”

State law requires that the school district conduct a review before closing any school. Monday’s public hearing was the first of two chances for people to tell Arlington School District officials what they think about the possible closure of Trafton Elementary School.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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