Tacoma's Foss High School may close




Posted on January 20, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 21 at 4:26 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- For Thu Ament, Foss High School is his second home.

"We call it the Foss Family," he says. Ament has been a principal at the school for four years.

"I came here with the intent to try to give back."

His roots run deep. He and his brother were also once students.

"Walking through here brings back a lot of memories."

So it was with a heavy heart that he stood in front of the entire student body last week and broke the news.

"I didn't have to say a whole lot to get a whole gym of kids to be quiet because they were silent, and that told me a lot." 

Foss may have to close its doors next year. It has the lowest high school enrollment in Tacoma, with just over 1,100 students. The district says closing Foss would save $2 million next year, with the hope that, in three years, it can open again. 

Cynthia Lenihan coordinates the International Baccalaureate Program. It's intensive college prep. The district says it will try to keep the program intact by moving it to another school, but Lenihan wonders if that's possible.

"If we have to disburse between four different high schools, I don't know. It would be really be difficult to do that," she says.

The district says another option would be closing five elementary schools with an enrollment under 300. It would also look into draining its $30 million reserve fund down to $10 million.

"When we're faced with a $25 million shortfall over the next three years, yes, we're having to make some tough decisions," says Tacoma district spokesman Dan Voepel. 

Principal Ament hopes there are other options. He says there is really no other place like Foss.

"I believe if we have a lot of collective minds, we can be creative to make the cuts where we can not impact kids and the community," he says.

The school district will hold a series of five meetings to discuss options on the table.  All meetings will be from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.:

Tues., Jan. 25th at First Creek Middle School
Wed, January 26th at Giaudrone Middle School
Tues., February 1st at Jason Lee Middle School
Wed., February 2nd at Truman Middle School
Thurs., February 3rd at Meeker Middle School

Voelpel said the meetings are about the district's budget crisis and how it's affecting the entire school district, not just Foss High School. They are also considering closing four elementary schools as well as laying off about 70 other positions around the district.