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Oso slide’s financial impact small for school districts

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ARLINGTON — The Arlington and Darrington school districts have found that, despite the devastation wreaked on their communities by the March 22 mudslide, the financial hit to their budgets is turning out to be smaller than expected.
The Oso mudslide killed 43 people, including three students in local schools.
Arlington Public Schools was recently approved for a $9,090 federal grant to reimburse the district for additional costs, most of that stemming from increased transportation costs after the slide blocked Highway 530.
Some students in Arlington schools live on the east side of the slide zone and couldn’t get to school easily, said Deb Borgens, the district’s director of financial services.
After the slide, 37 students who were in the Darrington School District transferred to Arlington, at least temporarily, Borgens said.
Some Darrington students also take classes at the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center near Paine Field, which before the slide required them to bus to Arlington High School, then ride an Arlington bus to the center in south Everett.
“The 37 who lived on the other side of the slide were having a hard time getting here,” Borgens said.
In addition to reimbursing parents who drove their children around the slide, then absorbing the costs of the additional bus routes through Skagit County, the district also turned over part of Post Middle School to the Red Cross for an emergency shelter and to offset costs relate to counseling.
The district hired a substitute to free up the district’s staff to provide more counseling services in two schools that lost students in the slide.
Jovon Mangual, 13, the oldest child in the Spillers family, attended Post Middle School, while Hunter Ruthven, 6, attended Kent Prairie Elementary.
Altogether, Arlington Public Schools ran up about $15,800 in costs related to the slide, but will be reimbursed for all but about $5,000, Borgens said.
The federal grant money came through a program called Project SERV (for School Emergency Response to Violence), which funds both short and long-term services that address traumatic impacts to education.
The Darrington School District is also applying for Project SERV reimbursement, superintendent Dave Holmer said, although it hasn’t completed its accounting of its post-slide transportation costs.
The Darrington district is also applying for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for work it did upgrading the electrical system in a building that FEMA used as its local headquarters during the emergency response period.
That will come to approximately $6,000, Holmer said.
The amount of money is tiny compared with the impact to the social fabric of the community, he said.
“The issues we’re dealing with are the ongoing trauma and staff to students,” Holmer said.
Denver Harris, 14, was a student at Darrington Middle High School.
Counseling was available in the school, but many of those services were provided by volunteers, and the continued presence of social workers and case managers in the community has helped the school communities through this period.
“It’s good to know there’s people here who will walk you through the process to get you what you need,” Holmer said.
Chris Winters: 425-374-4165 or

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