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District narrows Jefferson Elementary relocation to 2 sites

Tue., Sept. 14, 2010

The options for relocation of Spokane’s Jefferson Elementary School have been narrowed to two – one east and one west, according to a recently released report prepared by Spokane Public Schools administrators.

Both options will be presented during a public forum Wednesday in front of the Spokane School Board.

As many as six possibilities were presented about where to put the elementary school that is currently located at Grand Boulevard and 37th Avenue on Spokane’s South Hill; some varied only slightly.

“We’ve done a very thorough study of our options,” said Mark Anderson, Spokane Public Schools’ assistant superintendent. “The important thing is we are recommending two viable options to the board.”

The two options: the east side, which would require the purchase of eight additional properties and temporarily relocate students during construction; and the west side of the property off Manito Boulevard, which would cost about $4 million less.

A third option, building a new elementary school across from Sacajawea Middle School, was eliminated because it would have caused too many traffic problems, according to the district’s site study report.

The issue has been hotly debated in recent months by neighbors of the school, who have raised concerns about traffic problems, children’s safety, preserving the school’s historic building and property value decreases.

The district has been considering what to do with the elementary school and the adjoining Hart Field for a year, Anderson said. The sports field will be updated, but the timing depends on Jefferson’s ultimate location.

To help guide its decision, the district commissioned a traffic study, an analysis on home sales near an elementary school, took public comment and conducted a public survey that brought hundreds of responses.

The traffic and home sale studies were presented late last month at a public meeting attended by more than 100 people. Results indicated that home sales would not be affected if a school was located across the street and traffic would increase in the Manito neighborhood by about 167 vehicles per day.

A steering committee for the project that included parents, teachers, neighborhood council members, school staff and administration worked together to narrow the options.

“I live in the neighborhood, so I want what’s best for the neighborhood, and I want what’s best for the kids now, and in 20 years, in 50 years and in 100 years,” said Tara Stefanoff, a member of the steering committee and mother of two Jefferson Elementary School children. “I do understand there will be more traffic in my neighborhood, but there’s a lot of traffic on 37th and Grand. My No. 1 concern is the safety of the children.”

Hundreds of responses to an e-mailed survey about where the school should be located were in favor of the west side. But 900 neighbors signed a petition stating they favored the east side.

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