State Sen. Hawkins Weighs In On Wenatchee School Closure
State Senator Brad Hawkins of East Wenatchee is weighing in on the planned closure of Columbia Elementary School in Wenatchee.
Hawkins is the Ranking Minority Member of the Early Learning & K-12 Education Senate Committee and a former school board member for North Central Educational Service District and the Eastmont School District.
He says the closure is a reasonable step if the school district is in a budget crunch.
"The staff can be transferred to other schools," said Hawkins. "Students' needs can still be met. But there would be efficiencies realized in some of the fixed cost of not having to operate an additional school building."
Hawkins made the comment while appearing on KPQ's The Agenda Tuesday.
He subsequently sent out a news release on the school closure.
The school district announced the closure earlier this month, saying it was due to a budget shortfall caused by declining enrollment.
Hawkins says the district is challenged by a shrinking number of school age kids and competition from an increasing number of charter and private schools.
“I do wish them the best as they continue to work through the process,” Hawkins said. “And hopefully if they do take steps to close Columbia Elementary, it will be what’s in the financial best interest of the school district over the long term.”
Hawkins mentioned that the projected population increase in the Wenatchee Valley would likely occur in the East Wenatchee and Douglas County area where there is more room for growth, rather than within Wenatchee, which has less open space with fewer new home developments.
He thinks it's a wise move for the Wenatchee School District to expect a different demographic living in Wenatchee in future years, probably with fewer young families.
The budget shortfall at Wenatchee Schools began in 2022 when new staff members were hired. The district admits a misstep occurred during a time when it was transitioning between superintendents.
It was later realized there was a $9 million dollar budgeting error in June of 2022 that put the district in a financial hole. Efforts to balance the shortfall have been ongoing since and are continuing.
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