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Kent School District is no longer closing schools

Kent School District staff are no longer talking about shutting down two elementary schools for the 2012-2013 school year.

They announced a new recommendation to look into keeping all schools open at the Feb. 8 board meeting.

"The full report and recommendations will be presented to the board in two weeks as previously scheduled," said Debbie Straus, school board president. Of course, our school board believes in transparency and so I didn’t want to wait two weeks to share the information."

The board had previously planned to review closing Jenkins Creek and Cedar Valley Elementary School in order to sidestep budget cuts. The schools were under consideration because they had the smallest enrollment in the district.

Kent School District, like many districts in Washington State, has been making budget reductions over the past several years as state and federal revenues have withered and local property taxes have declined. These are the three largest revenue sources for the district.

“This board has a responsibility to not only involve the community in our decision making but to look at every legitimate option to keep the district on sound financial footing," Straus said."Our responsibility goes beyond the current students, families and staff, but to future generations as well.  As a community, we may not always agree on every cost saving option we consider, but you can count on us keeping our students and our district’s sustainability at the forefront of every decision we make.”

A record crowd of around 200 teachers, parents and students attended the meeting in support of keeping Jenkins Creek and Cedar Valley Elementary School open.

"People seemed very please with the board's news to keep the schools open, they were applauding and cheering," said Mike Halliday, district spokesperson. "I think it was great there were students there because they were able to see government in action and how they can be active participants in a positive way."

This is not the first time the Kent School District decided not to proceed with cuts or closures. The board almost eliminated physical education and music programs for the 2010-2011 school year before discovering they didn't have to make the cuts.

"These decisions are never easy because the board not only has a responsibility to the kids and staff, but to the long term health of the district," Halliday said. "They need to look at every option necessary in order to balance the budget and be viable."

The board will make the final decision on the schools during a Feb. 22 meeting.

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