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Letter to Hilltop Elementary Parents

March 20, 2009


Dear Parents and Guardians,  


As we are all well aware, our state and nation are facing unprecedented economic challenges resulting in budget deficits affecting the Puyallup School District. As we work to reduce our budget by $11 to $15 million, we are faced with making decisions that will affect every student in the Puyallup School District.


For many years, we have studied the effectiveness of small schools. The enrollment at Hilltop Elementary School is approximately 200 students, and it is not expected to grow in the foreseeable future. In addition, this significantly low student enrollment makes it challenging to provide a viable and equitable student learning environment, as well as a positive working climate for staff. Small schools make it very difficult for the district to best serve our students, your children, and the cost of operating small schools continues to increase.


The purpose of this letter is to inform Hilltop Elementary families that district staff will be recommending that, in accordance with Board Policy No. 6883, the Board of Directors begin its review of the analysis of the Hilltop Elementary School learning environment and possible future closure of Hilltop.


The district’s administrative staff believes that current Hilltop Elementary students may be better served in other North Hill schools where a wider range of educational support will provide them with an equal opportunity to district programs as their peers have in other district schools.  Combining Hilltop, Mountain View, and Northwood elementary schools into two schools would provide a broader range of educational programs and opportunities for all students, increased staff collaboration, and more professional development opportunities for intermediate and primary staff. 


The Board will consider this recommendation to analyze the potential closure of Hilltop Elementary at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 23, in the Ballou Junior High Commons, 9916 136th Street E. in Puyallup. If approved, the Board action will authorize staff to begin development of a written analysis as required under Board Policy 6883 which will be presented to the Board of Directors on April 13. If the Board moves forward with this process, there will be a minimum of one public hearing as required by state statute for public testimony. The date and time of this public hearing will be announced on the district Web site, in other written district communications, and in local print media for two consecutive weeks, with the last print media notice published not later than seven days before the public hearing. 


School closures are extremely difficult for all who are affected, and these decisions deserve very careful consideration. I assure you that we have extensively studied this matter. Several years ago, the Board of Directors established a goal to provide equitable and equal learning opportunities for all students throughout the district.  Continued declining enrollment at Hilltop Elementary (from approximately 300 students in 1997 to approximately 200 students today) during this period of overall district enrollment growth has made it increasingly difficult to meet this districtwide elementary student learning program goal.


I want to share with you the major considerations of the staff’s recommendation for potential closure:   


  • Student achievement is the number one priority in the Puyallup School District.  It is our paramount duty to provide children the tools needed to achieve at their highest levels. 
  • Each of our schools must provide the best possible educational environment that supports quality teaching, learning methods, and instructional pedagogy including appropriate student interaction, socialization, and staff collaboration.
  • Research indicates that it is difficult to provide the full range of comprehensive elementary educational programs and options in elementary schools with very low student populations.
  • Closure of Hilltop Elementary will produce an annual savings of approximately $350,000.


Experiencing academic success is critical for our children.  As parents, teachers, and administrators, we must work together to ensure that we provide students an appropriate learning environment which is supportive of student learning.  As superintendent of the Puyallup School District, it is my responsibility to you and to your child to make sure that happens in every school. 




Dr. Tony Apostle