The Stranger’s reporting was correct: Two neighborhood schools are on the chopping block. TT Minor Elementary and the Nova Alternative School in the old Mann building at 24th & Cherry are on the school district’s preliminary list of facilities that will be closed before the 2009-2010 school year. The issue for both schools is a combination of low enrollment and old buildings that rank low on the district’s list of criteria.
The district has been in a multi-year process of eliminating schools due to low enrollment and budget pressures. The most recent neighborhood school to close was MLK elementary in Madison Valley.
If these closures go through, it will leave two elementary schools in the neighborhood: Leschi and Bailey Gatzert. This would leave the northern half of the neighborhood without any elementary school within a reasonable walking distance. In addition, it would move the kids at Nova into Meany Middle School, which seems like an odd decision considering that the Nova kids are all high school age. (updated: Middle-schoolers at Meany will be dispersed to other schools, high-school age kids from the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center will join them in the Meany building)
There’s no clear path to what happens with school buildings after they’re closed. Some have been sold to private developers and others have been turned over to the community. The folks in Madison Valley are currently trying to convert the MLK school building into a neighborhood resource. The Mann building at 24th & Cherry is a fantastic old building but would require a lot of work to repurpose it into something else. We’ll have to be vigilant and make sure it never faces the possibility of a wrecking ball.
It’s important to say that none of this is a done deal. There’s a history of schools being taken off of the closure list when parents put up a big enough fight. The school district’s schedule has several upcoming steps where the list could be changed, with many public meetings in between. Those of you with kids in these two schools or an interest in keeping more education options in the neighborhood should be prepared to attend a lot of meetings and put up a vocal fight. That’s the only way these things ever get turned around.
We’ll keep track of when additional steps come up and let you all know.