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Eagle Point district could pair elementary schools

Facing an ongoing budget deficit, the Eagle Point School District is considering the consolidation of Shady Cove and Elk Trail elementary schools, according to district officials.

In a work session on Oct. 12, the school district board studied the possibility of closing Elk Trail and moving those students to Shady Cove elementary, according to Scott Whitman, district business manager.

Enrollment at Elk Trail, which serves grades K-3, has steadily declined over the past few years, going from 174 students in 2007 to 104 this year.

Shady Cove elementary has just over 200 students in grades four through eight, plus one class of kindergartners.

Shady Cove could accommodate the extra students because the school has an unused wing, an area that once housed younger students several years ago, according to Whitman.

During the work session Oct. 12, several parents voiced concerns about the potential closure, citing transportation issues and questioning plans for the Elk Trail building.

In terms of transportation, Whitman said, closing Elk Trail would save the district money. Of the 104 students enrolled in the school, more than half live in Shady Cove and only about a third live in Trail. The rest live in Eagle Point or other surrounding areas. Nearly every student is bused to Elk Trail because of its rural location.

As far as using the empty school, Whitman said vacant district buildings would be discussed later in the year.

In a meeting at the Elk Trail school Oct. 11, members of the district's site council discussed a number of concerns about the school's possible closure, including lost revenue if students transfer to neighboring Prospect School District, possible maintenance costs of the empty building, and impacts to the area economy.

The council, which includes Principal Tiffanie Lambert, other staff members and a parent, also discussed whether the school's closure would save enough money to make a difference, considering the scope of cuts the district needs to make.

The Eagle Point School District is looking to close a deficit of $1.8 million this year and $1.3 million during the 2012-13 school year. Closing the school would save the district an estimated $234,000, according to Whitman.

In analyzing possible school consolidations to save money, the district also looked at Lake Creek Learning Center, a small Eagle Point school serving fewer than 50 students in grades K-5. However, because a large portion of that school's funding comes from a grant separate from the district, the district's costs for the school are relatively small, so the school was ruled out as a possibility for closure or consolidation.

Elk Trail, however, has the highest cost per student in the district, according to Whitman.

Elk Trail Principal Tiffanie Lambert said she was unable to comment about the possible consolidation.

Eagle Point School Board will hold a work session concerning transportation in the event of consolidation at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the district office, 11 N. Royal Ave., Eagle Point.

District officials will also hold a forum for parents and the community at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 7, at Elk Trail elementary, 591 Elk Creek Road, Trail.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.