Jill Fankhauser's son, a third-grade student at Franklin Elementary School, was distraught when he learned his school will shut down at the end of the academic year.
"That's just how much the school means to him," said the Kent mother. "He was upset."
Fankhauser said her family learned Franklin Elementary is slated for closure via an automated "robo call" from Principal Todd Poole that went out Wednesday night to the parents of an estimated 192 students enrolled there in kindergarten through fifth grade.
"(On) Jan. 28 (Tuesday) ... Action was taken to close Franklin Elementary at the end of the school year," said Poole in the message, referencing a decision by the Kent Board of Education. "Details will be shared with parents as they become available. I know that this comes as a shock to many, and it is not easy."
Although board members Rebekah Wright Kulis, Marlene Dorsey, Janet Rusnack and Superintendent Joe Giancola recently said that one of the Kent district's five elementary schools could be shut down as one of several cost-cutting measures, each told the Record-Courier a decision on which one had not yet been made.
However, Wright Kulis, the board's chairwoman, said Thursday the board approved closing two buildings. In addition to Franklin, the former Central School location also will be closed.
"The vote on Tuesday was specific to Franklin and Central," Wright Kulis said.
The Central School building on North Mantua Street ceased being an elementary school when Davey Elementary School opened in 2000, but is utilized by other programs.
"This was not a school full of children," Wright Kulis said, regarding Central School.
Kent district intends to close an elementary school this year
Central School houses the Kent Theodore Roosevelt High School Bridges Academy, while the rest of the building is leased to other educational, non-competing agencies, Wright Kulis said.
School officials cited a 25 percent decline in enrollment in Kent over the past 20 years and the cost savings that would result if one of the elementary schools were closed.
"There was a detailed analysis of the costs of each school provided to the board members (Tuesday), and this has been an ongoing thing," Wright Kulis said. "This is not a knee-jerk reaction ... How we use our physical resources have been part of those dialogues all along."
Wright Kulis said that the district has managed to save millions of dollars through six annual, $1 million cost-saving initiatives.
"We have been very forthcoming about how each of those have rolled out," she said. "We have saved millions of dollars. That need continues as our income continues to be stagnant or decline."
On Wednesday, Giancola said the community would be part of any discussion to close a school.
"We do have ideas we presented," Giancola said, "but I still need to talk with more people in the community."
Poole declined to comment Thursday. He said all questions should be directed to the school board and Giancola.
Giancola, however, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
In addition to closing Franklin Elementary and Central School, credible sources indicated that other cost-saving measures are under discussion, including closing the swimming pool at Theodore Roosevelt High School, which has been in operation since 1977.
Franklin Elementary, located at 6662 S.R. 43, north of the Kent city limits, originally housed the Franklin Township School, which was a separate school district. The original building opened in 1922, and additions to the structure were built in the 1950s. The Franklin district was absorbed by the Kent city district in 1959.
The Kent district has not closed a school since Emma Williard Elementary School in Brady Lake ceased operation in 1978. Like Franklin, Brady Lake was a separate district until it joined Kent.
Fankhauser and other parents in the Kent school district have formed a private committee to examine possible options to keep Franklin open. Anyone interested in that committee can contact Fankhauser at 330-858-1816.
"I'm hoping (the school board is) willing to take input from the community," she said. "I think that before they make a big decision like this, they should definitely get the opinions of the people it would affect. We're hopeful they'll reconsider their actions."
"Tradition, values, community and trust are the very foundation of our school," said Holly Melin, who has children in the second and third grades in Franklin. "The decision of this magnitude without first prior having our community involvement and discussion degrades the very foundation of trust."
Todd Perkins, who has a fourth-grader enrolled at Franklin, said he was "blindsided" by Poole's message Wednesday.
"We were shocked," he said. "When the levy was going up last year, nothing was ever mentioned about the school being financially strapped. ... with all these years of all these levies passing, how can the district be in a financial bind?"
Voters approved an 8.9-mill continuing levy in May 2013 estimated to raise $4.25 million per year in new funds.
"We were at a crossroads financially to keep our excellent programming without making cuts that would hurt the students, and this levy helped us through the crossroads so that our students can maintain all of the programs that they have," said Giancola following the levy's passage in May.