FARMINGTON — The Davis School District Board of Education voted Tuesday to close Washington Elementary School under a plan that consolidates six elementary schools in the Bountiful area to five.
Some community members who addressed the board said they anticipated that the board would vote to close the school after a public process but they urged board members and district administrators to help students make smooth transitions to their next schools and to continue to offer a summer lunch program at the school.
School Community Council Chairman Mitch Davis said many families rely on the food resources offered by the school such as school nutrition programs and food pantry.
Some Washington families solely rely on food from the school. Somehow, those resources must continue, he said.
"Nobody should go to bed starving, especially young children," he said.
Another community member, Kelli Rapp, expressed concern that Washington students will not be accepted at other schools. She told the school board about one student who sometimes comes to school with his pants inside out.
"Everyone's accepted at Washington. When he goes to his new school, I'm sure there will be jokes and people will make fun of him. He will be belittled. That's what Washington students are going to face when they go (to a) particular school," she said.
Rapp said she was disappointed that all of the board members didn't visit Washington Elementary because they would have better understood the strengths of the diverse neighborhood school.
The decision to consider closing Washington was based on an annual review of each school's enrollment and staffing needs, officials said.
The school's enrollment is below 300, which means it is the smallest of any in Davis School District.
According to information on the school's website prepared by the school district, Washington's student population has been shrinking for a decade.
The board's vote was unanimous.
Parents acknowledged the Title I school's enrollment was small, but said it was ideal for students because they received a lot of individual attention and had thrived educationally.
Typically, Title I schools have large concentrations of low-income students.Those schools receive supplemental federal funds to help meet students' educational goals.
Last year, the school earned a grade of B on the state report card, board member Cheryl Phipps noted.
Shamory Kojima, whose daughter and nephew attend the school, said the school board's vote "changed my life."
"I have to go home and tell them they're not going to that school any more," he said, fighting emotion.
Kojima said he has no car so his children walk to school. It is unclear how they will get to their new school, he said.
Superintendent Reid Newey gave his assurances that teachers and administrators at the schools that Washington Elementary students will attend next will help them make a smooth transition.
"We care about every student we serve, every family we serve, and always will. It's our goal for all kids to succeed," Newey said.
Board members, too, offered their assurances that the transition would go as smoothly as possible.
Phipps said the issues raised by parents "are very real and personal to me as well."
She vowed to ensure students' needs are met.
"I also want you to know I will not stand silently by not seeing some of the concerns that have been expressed go without further notice," she said.Comment on this story
Another Washington Elementary School parent, Vanner Johnson, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the school district will deliver on its assurances, "but I fear it won't happen."
Some kids are born on a mountain plateau with tools all around them that help them succeed, while others "are born hanging on the a cliff," he said. They desperately need the programs, assistance and acceptance that Washington offers, he said.
The school district has promised support to help students succeed but "we don't feel like it's going to be the same as Washington. There's a synergy there we can't explain," Johnson said.