Judge rules against Trafton supporters

ARLINGTON — Parents suing to keep their children at Trafton Elementary School lost their bid Wednesday for an injunction to reopen the building by the first day of school.

The parent group’s attorney, Bridget Bourgette Shaw, argued that Trafton families face immediate financial, emotional and intellectual harm with the closure of Trafton.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Dave Kurtz told the parents they didn’t have enough evidence to force the Arlington School District to move teachers back in and open up the rural school building.

The School District argued that while children have a right to an education, parents don’t have the right to force a district to teach their children at a specific location.

“The district just wants to move forward with school,” said attorney David Hokit, who represents the district.

The Arlington School Board voted unanimously in June to shutter Trafton, a school that was established in 1888 and is listed on the state Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. It was considered the oldest continually operating small public school in the state. About 135 students attended.

District officials said that decreased state funding contributed to a budget deficit, and that the district stood to save more than $258,000 a year by not operating an elementary school at Trafton.

But during School Board hearings, parents of Trafton students offered what they saw as clear evidence refuting the financial reasons to close Trafton, said Terri Forslof, a spokeswoman for the parent group.

The group sought the injunction, hoping that Trafton Elementary would stay open until their lawsuit is settled.

“The burden of proof was on us, and I feel like we did that. The School District can’t meet the needs of our children,” Forslof said. “We have had several families sell their homes at a loss and move away.”

The School Board’s decision to close Trafton Elementary School was predetermined and the district misrepresented its financial status in order to get support for the closure, Forslof said.

For most of the spring the district anticipated a $1.7 million budget deficit and began to look for ways to shave costs. Along with the closure of Trafton, the cuts included the layoffs of faculty and staff. The district’s budget for the coming school year is balanced now, Superintendent Kristine McDuffy said.

“The decision to close Trafton Elementary School was an extremely difficult one, but one that was based on a very thorough and thoughtful process,” McDuffy said. “We are sorry that some of our families disagree with the School Board’s decision. (Wednesday’s) decision by the court established that there was no legal basis to justify an injunction.”

Forslof said she and the other parents listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit plan to sit down and talk about how they will proceed. Many people were disheartened on Wednesday.

“It’s been tough. This legal process is expensive and I am sure the School District is counting on us not moving forward,” she said. “The only way to fight this is to a final resolution. It could get ugly. Some people want the district’s dirty laundry to be aired. We have to decide now if we have the stomach for the fight.”

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

On the Web

For the Arlington Public Schools website, go to www.asd.wednet.edu.

Donations to the Trafton parents’ legal fund, go to http://tinyurl.com/Trafton-School.

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