Bellevue School Board voted in favor of closing two schools
Update 6:25 p.m.:
The Bellevue School Board has voted to consolidate two elementary schools. Three board members voted yes, while two abstained.
Breaking: Emotional reaction from parents as @TheBSD405 School Board votes to consolidate Eastgate and Wilburton Elementary Schools. #Bellevue pic.twitter.com/FThLnCMJgo
— Nicole Jennings (@nicoleKIROFM) March 17, 2023
The district also approved additional operational cuts to offset the $31 million dollar shortfall. Transition planning will now begin in preparation for fall 2023.
“I want to extend my heart to a community that is aching as a result of this consolidation. We have no bad schools needing closing — only small schools getting smaller,” Bellevue Public Schools Interim superintendent Art Jarvis said. “That fact requires that we consolidate, and we will. I ask that all who love the schools join with BSD to embrace innovation and changes, as we work together to create a future system that is stronger and better than we could have ever imagined.”
The Bellevue School Board is expected to make a final decision on how to move forward with their plans to consolidate schools in the district to save money with a vote Thursday afternoon.
The school board is holding a special meeting Thursday starting at 4:30 p.m., at the Wilburton Instructional Service Center in the Rainier Room.
After pushback from parents over plans to shut down multiple elementary schools in a cost-saving measure, Bellevue Public Schools has released a revised plan which would only shutter two schools.
The district’s original plan would close three elementary schools, Eastgate, Wilburton, and Ardmore. Now the district’s plan would no longer shut down Ardmore Elementary and actually expand the school with an Arabic Heritage Language program.
Bellevue superintendent recommends consolidating multiple elementary schools
Bellevue Public Schools Interim superintendent Art Jarvis said that the decision to only consolidate Eastgate and Wilburton elementary schools came after much consideration on the part of the district and that the updated recommendation would provide better learning opportunities to students.
“I must acknowledge that over the past several months, our learning community has engaged in personal, passionate, and often difficult discussions,” Jarvis wrote. “Through these conversations, we have come to appreciate our shared value in maintaining the health of the Bellevue School District so that we may continue to exceed expectations and earn our place as a national model of educational excellence that meets the needs of students academically, socially, and emotionally—as one community.”
The current plan now consolidates Wilburton with Clyde Hill, while Enatai consolidates Eastgate with Spiritridge.
The Advanced Learning programs will be relocated from Spiritridge to Woodridge.
Over the past three years, student enrollment at Bellevue School District has declined by more than 1,500 students, and it doesn’t look like anything is likely to change that trend in the near future.
“In October 2022, it became clear that enrollment would not go back to pre-pandemic levels…the impact of the drop in enrollment will hit the district’s financial position in the 2023-2024 school year,” Jarvis said. “The magnitude of the situation serves as the rationale behind consolidation considerations.”
The district points to lower enrollment and, therefore, less education funding as the main reason why they have to consolidate the schools. Jarvis identified lower birth rates, higher housing costs, more educational options for families, including private schools, lower immigration levels, and families moving to more affordable areas as the main reasons for enrollment dropping.
The district faced significant pushback from parents who rallied against the consolidation plan, saying that the changes were happening too fast and that they would be facing significant inconveniences.
Families rally ahead of Bellevue School District consolidation decision
Other school districts are also grappling with lower enrollment and budget deficits, including Seattle Public Schools and Everett Public Schools, which are both considering significant layoffs.