A group opposed to the planned closure of Columbia Elementary School in Wenatchee is urging like-minded residents to attend Thursday's public hearing on the issue, the second of two hosted by the Wenatchee School District.

Save Columbia School says closing the school will do little to help offset the district's budget shortfall because it only represents a small fraction - two percent - of the district's budget.

The school district estimates the closure will save $2.9 million of the $8.9 million in planned cuts going into the next school year.

The group says the closure will lead to overcrowding at other schools with 350 displaced Columbia students that’ll be sent to Lincoln and Washington schools, where nearly 900 students will be impacted.

It's also being argued that the closure will hurt the district's most vulnerable students.

Save Columbia School says research shows the detrimental effects of school closures, particularly on vulnerable populations. It says closures in other districts show the repercussions extend far beyond educational disruption, disproportionately affecting the homeless, migrants, language learners, persons of color, and those with special needs.

The group says the proposed closure disproportionately impacts Latino students, with 74% affected by the decision. In Addition, it says 79% of Columbia students at risk of displacement qualify for free or reduced lunch, highlighting socioeconomic disparities compounded by the closure.

The School District last week presented two scenarios for offsetting the $9 million shortfall heading into the next school year.

One included the closure of Columbia Elementary School in the next school year while the other delayed the closure to the following school year - 2025-26.

Thursday's public hearing on the closure takes place at 6 PM at Wenatchee High School.

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Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby

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