The Wenatchee School District is offering two scenarios for deep budget cuts to help offset a $9 million shortfall heading into the next school year (2024-25). 

One includes the closure of Columbia Elementary School while the other delays the closure but leaves a bigger deficit moving forward. 

Wenatchee School Superintendent Cory Kalahar gave a budget update at this week's school board meeting, which included an outline of the two scenarios. 

Scenario 1: 

  • Close Columbia Elementary school to save $2.9 million 
  • Place all three middle schools on the same schedule, which would save $2 million 
  • Change the high school schedule by reducing the number of classes from eight to six. Instead of taking four classes one day and four classes the next day, high school students would take the same six classes each day. The move would save $660,000 annually. 
  • Make additional staff reductions to save $1 million. 
  • Reduce spending on district materials, supplies, and operating costs would save $2.5 million 

There would be 63 staffing cuts in Scenario 1. The total savings in this scenario are $8.9 million.  

The cuts would still leave the district $3-4 million short moving into the next school year (2024-25) because of declining enrollment, other school options (Pinnacles Prep, etc.) for parents to choose from, and ongoing inflation of school employee salaries and benefits. 

Scenario 2: 

Columbia Elementary would stay open and there would be other staffing cuts at the elementary level to save $416,000 

  • The same middle school adjustments as in Scenario would save $2 million  
  • The same high school schedule changes as in Scenario 1 would save $660,000. 
  • The same additional staffing cuts as in Scenario 1 would save $1 million 
  • The same reduction in district materials, supplies, and operating costs would save $2.5 million 

There would be 35 staffing cuts in Scenario 2. It would save roughly $6.6 million. 

Scenario 2 would leave the district with a bigger shortfall moving into the next school year. The deficit would be $5.4-$7.5 million. 

Kalahar said there would be a compounding effect on the budget in the 2025-26 school year as well. 

Several teachers and community members took the microphone at this week's school board meeting, echoing previous calls for the school board to reject the district's plan to close Columbia Elementary. 

Columbia fifth grade teacher Aaron Gahringer says the district is unfairly singling out the school when there are other options to fix the shortfall. 

"A closure this year or a closure next year, you're fooling no one into thinking these are the only options," said Gahringer. "It's time to come up with a better solution. And if it isn't feasible, then let's put off closing any schools for this year and put our best and brightest at the table to figure it out."  

Columbia kindergarten teacher Ann Young said the district will suffer a bigger fall in enrollment if the school closes. 

"I need to let you know that without asking families, I've had one-quarter of my students' families inform me that they will not be returning to the Wenatchee School District if Columbia closes,” said Young. 

A second public hearing on the closure of Columbia Elementary will be held on April 23. 

The school board will vote on whether to close the school at its meeting on May 14. 

45 Famous Alumni from Washington State High Schools

Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby

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