An aging building and hard economic times have helped Eastern Washington University and Cheney Public Schools decide to close Robert Reid Elementary School on campus at the end of the school year.
Construction on the school began in 1958 and the school became a place for children in the district to learn, and future teachers as well. Two towers overlook the classrooms where college students or parents can observe, unnoticed by the children in class.
Teachers are available to talk to college students studying not only education, but psychology, social work or any other subject dealing with children.
It’s the last of its kind in the state, and one of only a handful in the entire country.
“It is a unique school,” said Larry Keller, superintendent of Cheney schools.
It is also the only choice school in the district. The 115 students attending Reid come from all over the district. Many parents of the students are either attending EWU or are employed there, and the students attending Reid are chosen on a first-come-first-served basis. Keller said there will be a place for the children in the other district schools.
Reid has been a collaborative effort between the district and university. The district provided the teachers, curriculum, textbooks and computers, while the university provides the building, maintenance and janitors.
But the building’s HVAC system is failing – it would cost around $3.5 million to replace – and the building is aging. Two years ago, the district and the university signed a two-year memorandum of understanding which will expire this year. To renew the contract, the university recently asked the school district for $150,000 a year to keep the building open for another two years. The district has decided that the cost was too high.
David Rey, special assistant to President Rodolfo Arévalo, said the university did a study as to how many of its own students actually use the school as part of their education. They found that only 12 students were using it. He said that the university is not teaching education in a way that uses the school – the university’s students spread out throughout the area to learn to teach.
“There is no special reason why that needs to be done at Reid,” Rey said.
The university is also on the list for receiving state funds for capital projects, with a high need for renovating Patterson Hall, which serves about 1,500 to 2,000 students a day. It’s a $45 million project that will be done in two parts. Since Eastern would be in line for receiving funds for one or two projects, officials wanted to make sure the Patterson project was on the list.
“It’s a very, very high need for us,” Rey said. “We can’t not do Patterson.”
Rey added that the cost of operating the building, including the cost of lights, heating, air conditioning, other utilities and the custodial services was much higher than $150,000.
He also said that it will be sad when Reid closes.
“I’ve seen how motivated people are there,” Rey said.
Shannon Lawson is the administrative coordinator/principal of Reid.
She said the school employs about 25 teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other staff members. It’s a small school where every teacher knows every student’s name.
“Reid really is a special place,” Lawson said. She said that when she considering becoming a student at EWU, the idea of the lab school was part of her decision.
She said she understands that there are parent groups looking for grant money to keep the school open.
“I still have hope,” she said. She has enjoyed the collaborative effort between Reid and the university. The banner across the playground’s fence announces, “Something big starts here,” a play on EWU’s Start Something Big campaign.
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