District considers relocations, closures

MARYSVILLE — The possible relocation or closure of a number of schools and school facilities was the hot topic at the Marysville School District staff meeting Jan. 29 at Grove Elementary.

Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland reviewed several potential bond packages for the school district’s 2010 bond measure, which include the following options:

• Close Liberty Elementary.

• Sell Tulalip Elementary to the Tulalip Tribes and developing a partnership school.

• Combine the Tulalip and Quil Ceda elementary schools.

• Move the Marysville Co-Op to one of a number of other locations, including Liberty or Cascade elementary, the Arts and Technology School, Marysville Middle School, Mountain View High School or Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

• Have the Marysville-Getchell High School host the students of one of a number of schools, including the Teaching and Technical Academy, the Arts and Technology School or Mountain View High School

• Have the ninth-grace campus of M-PHS host Marysville Middle School students.

• Close the Marysville-Pilchuck High School pool.

Nyland presented members of the staff and public in attendance with a color-coded chart of potential bond package options, which is available online on the front page of the Marysville School District Web site, before opening the floor to questions and comments.

Tami Taylor, assistant principal of Liberty Elementary, warned of the potential impact of displacing Liberty’s staff and more than 500 students, while Marianna McCullough, kitchen manager of Liberty, wondered whether the members of the Marysville School District Board of Directors who have children in the Marysville Co-Op might be biased in favor of it.

After Marysville resident Frank Taylor asked to know which board members were considering school closures, board member Darci Becker explained that this school year will her last as a Co-Op parent. She empathized with Liberty staff who don’t want to see their school closed, but noted that the Co-Op’s current location at Quil Ceda Elementary adds to the time and cost of transporting students to the Co-Op, since Co-Op parents are responsible for transporting their children to school.

Board member Sherri Crenshaw later responded to an attendee’s invite to the board, to attend other community meetings, by informing them that board members often do attend such meetings, but that she often prefers to stay silent and listen. She encouraged suggestions from the community, and expressed the belief that the board ultimately makes its decisions based on the best interests of the district as a whole, rather than just a few individual schools.

Cathy Russell, a librarian at Liberty, asserted that students can sense the spirit of community and tradition in their school, and that “breaking up” the students of Liberty could send them a negative message.

In response to an attendee’s question, Nyland explained that the Co-Op is funded as a program, rather than as a school by the district, but another attendee pointed out that having Liberty host the Co-Op would still incur costs to the district, simply by keeping the building open and heated.

“If you close any of these schools, it’ll also impact how taxpayers look at the bond and the levy,” said Cathy Elkington, a third-grade teacher at Liberty Elementary, suggesting that citizens might not understand that certain monies can only be spent toward certain ends. “They’ll ask, ‘Why are we opening new schools, if these other schools are closing?’”

“I agree, it’s terrible timing,” said Nyland, who nonetheless emphasized the need to make up for the shortfall in promised dollars from the state.

When McCullough asked why one chart of bond options included combining Liberty and Cascade, while the other didn’t, Nyland explained that it was the difference between building and operations costs.

Chrissy Dulik Dalos and Joe Wiederhold offered passionate speeches on behalf of Tulalip Elementary and the M-PHS pool, respectively.

Wiederhold reminded the other attendees the pool is the only one of its size in North Snohomish County and, as a lifeguard instructor, he appreciates that its deep end is deep enough to train and certify lifeguards according to American Red Cross requirements. He touted the swimming skills that can be obtained at the pool as essential for young people who live in an area with so much water, while another attendee saw them as a way of trimming some of the fat off of Marysville’s reportedly overweight population.

Dulik Dalos is a Macaw Indian who serves as an Indian Education Manager for the Marysville School District, and she was near tears as she reminded the other attendees of the unpleasant associations that busing students outside of their lands can have for Native Americans.

“The people at Tulalip do great work,” Dulik Dalos said. “We really invest in our kids. I appreciate the compassion in this room and I understand that this is a tough decision.”

Although the Citizen’s Committee’s recommendation to the board isn’t due until June 30, Nyland listed the “threshold questions” which must be answered by Feb. 15, including:

• What goes on the M-PHS campus?

• Which schools have priority on the bond?

The next citizen’s planning meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at 4220 80th St. NE. A series of questions and answers about the facility options can be found on the Marysville School District Web site.

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