Since the Spokane School Board decided to relocate Jefferson Elementary as part of a school bond-funded remodeling project, opponents of that decision have campaigned tirelessly to stop the move.
Recently, the Hart Field Preservation Organization filed a lawsuit against Spokane Public Schools saying that moving Jefferson onto part of Hart Field violates that property’s deed, and that the proceeds from the school bond may be used to modernize, replace or renovate the existing Jefferson Elementary, but not to move it to a new location.
On Sunday afternoon a group of people who support the move gathered at Jefferson’s new location on the corner of 37th Avenue and Manito Boulevard.
It’s the first time supporters of the school district’s decision to move Jefferson have staged a public meeting.
“We started planning this walk just about a week ago,” said Becky Marshall, who has children at Jefferson and lives just a few houses from the new location. “We just want to show that not everyone is opposed to moving the school.”
Together with Nikki Lockwood, another Jefferson parent, Marshall hand-delivered fliers in the neighborhood and sent them home with kids at Jefferson.
“I think we’ve sent out about 300 fliers,” said Marshall.
Close to 100 people carrying signs and chanting “Move it for the kids!” joined Lockwood and Marshall on a walk that looped around blocks north and south of Jefferson’s new location.
“We support the move. We think the school board made a great decision and we did this to show our support,” Marshall said. “Until now we were sort of a silent voice.”
Marshall and other supporters will be at the design open house at Jefferson Elementary School tonight.
“We feel like the school district has addressed every issue, from traffic impact to the impact on property values, to make the best decision with the money they have,” said Marshall. “The opponents are not easily pacified. Maybe they don’t want to see a beautiful new school in the neighborhood?”
Fur has been flying at neighborhood and school board meetings since the possibility of moving Jefferson was introduced. Opponents to the new location claim, among many points of contention, that moving the school will bring too much bus and car traffic onto narrow South Hill streets and negatively impact the historic Manito neighborhood.
The school district maintains that it’s cheaper to build a school in the new location than to remodel the old one, and also that it’s safer for the students because it’s farther away from Grand Boulevard traffic.
The decision to move Jefferson followed an extensive process in which the district presented six different options for how to construct a new Jefferson Elementary School – including rebuilding it in its current location – and held numerous design meetings and public forums. The budget for Jefferson is $25.1 million.
Marshall said she has been at every school board meeting and every public meeting, showing her support of the new location. She said most of the people opposed to moving Jefferson are older people who no longer have a need for an elementary school.
On the other hand, opponents claim those supporting the move don’t live in the neighborhood.
“I live just five houses from here,” said Marshall, while standing on the corner of 37th Avenue and Manito Boulevard Sunday afternoon. “I will feel the impact of the traffic and the kids.”