A workshop held by the Wenatchee School Board this week on the planned closure of Columbia Elementary school gave details on how students displaced by the closure would be handled. 

The district will save $3 million in staffing costs with the closure, which is being done as the district looks to cut $8.6 million from its budget heading into the next school year. 

Budget cuts are being forced by rising staffing costs, declining enrollment and inflation. 

Several factors led to Columbia Elementary being chosen for closure.  

An analysis of five factors showed Columbia has the second lowest enrollment (341 students) of the elementary schools in the district. It has the second most centralized location, which makes it easy to reassign students to adjacent schools  

Also, Columbia’s boundaries are within a fully developed section of Wenatchee, leaving the least opportunity for new housing growth that could bring new children to boost enrollment. 

In addition, Columbia has had the biggest drop in enrollment (26.5%) of any of the seven elementary schools in the last eight years. It also has the second fewest number of staff members of any of the schools. 

Lincoln-Washington Reassignment 

The students displaced with the closure of Columbia Elementary will be sent to two adjacent schools – Lincoln and Washington. (A number of students who chose to attend Columbia from other areas in the district will likely return to schools they would’ve have normally attended.) 

There will be a nearly 50-50 split of Columbia students reassigned to either Lincoln or Washington schools. 

 Wenatchee Executive Director of Schools Mike Lane says the dividing line will be along Orondo Avenue. 

"When we mapped out where students have been coming from within these boundaries, it is a very pretty even split between the area north of Orondo Avenue and the area south of Orondo Avenue," said Lane. "That became a very natural split of students." 

The current boundary lines for Columbia are roughly at Miller and Russell streets and Third and Methow streets. 

The extension into the Washington footprint will extend the boundary for displaced Columbia students in that direction to Miller Street and Orondo Avenue and Third and Methow streets. 

The extension into the Lincoln footprint will extend that boundary to Miller and Russell streets to Orondo Avenue and Methow Street. 


Another major reason Columbia was chosen for closure is because most students will be able to walk to the adjacent Lincoln and Washington Elementary schools.  

Students with bussing needs fall out of the “Safe Routes to School,” which means the district qualifies to receive funding from the state for students more than a mile away walking distance from their school. 

Lane says only a few students will need to take a bus under those conditions. 

"We've identified the number of families affected by this transportation change, and it is literally a handful per school," Lane said. "I think it's under 20 for each building that would need to be transported outside of the safe walking route." 

Additional routes will add more costs, but there’s a plan to add students to current routes and minimize additional routes. 

The School Board has scheduled two additional public hearings on the planned closure of Columbia Elementary.   

Those hearings will be held at 6:00pm in the Wenatchee High School Commons on March 21 and April 18. 

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