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MailTribune.com
  • Eagle Point district mulls fate of Trail school

    Building has been vacant for two years in area of stagnant student enrollment
  • To sell or not to sell, that is the question Eagle Point School District officials are faced with as they determine the fate of Elk Trail School in Trail.
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  • To sell or not to sell, that is the question Eagle Point School District officials are faced with as they determine the fate of Elk Trail School in Trail.
    In June 2012, the Eagle Point School Board, in response to nearly $2 million in budget cuts and declining enrollment, made the difficult decision to close the country school and send the 94 elementary students who went there to Shady Cove School about six miles away. The school has been vacant ever since.
    "It's been sitting there empty for two years, and that's hard to see," said Superintendent Cynda Rickert. "And projections don't tell us it will be needed again."
    At a July 9 work session, district officials and board members reviewed Portland State University's enrollment forecast, which indicated that the district would see very little growth in enrollment over the next decade — and at Shady Cove School, even less.
    There were more than 400 students enrolled in either Shady Cove School or Elk Trail School in 1998, but this year, there were only about 268 students enrolled in Shady Cove School. According to PSU's projections, the school, which has a capacity of 450 students, may grow by only about eight students in the next decade.
    Board Chairman Scott Grissom blames the stagnant population in the area on the loss of the timber industry and the suspension of the Elk Creek Dam project, as well as the fact that Shady Cove doesn't have a municipal water system.
    For the first year Elk Trail School was closed, the district paid between $79 and $744 a month, depending on the season, to keep the 24,090-square-foot building at a moderate temperature so the pipes wouldn't freeze. Last year, the district's maintenance supervisor, Ken Gruenwald, turned off the well and drained the system to keep costs down and prevent rodents from seeking shelter in the warm, empty building.
    Gruenwald said maintenance crews inspect the facility — inside and out — about once a week for insurance reasons and periodically trim the high grass and weeds.
    The first vandalism incident was about two weeks ago, Gruenwald said, when someone broke a few windows, which have since been boarded up.
    "It's a shame we can't be using it, but it's just not practical," Grissom said. "It's going to sit up there and deteriorate, so we have to decide whether it's worth holding on to and keeping up or if it would be better to sell."
    Rickert said the district is considering three options: to maintain the status quo, to rent or lease the property, or to declare it surplus property and sell it.
    While no decision has been made, the board commissioned Scott Whitman, the district's information and operations manager, to hire someone to appraise the property and determine potential uses.
    Head Start initially expressed an interest in renting a couple of the classrooms and offices but later decided there weren't enough low-income children in that area to support the program, according to Nancy Nordyke, director of Head Start.
    Rickert said the district would hold a community forum before making a final decision.
    Allen Barber, the district's human resources director, said the district took two years to decide to close Elk Trail School and wouldn't rush this decision either.
    Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.
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