February 8, 2013

Large crowd lobbies against planned Sacramento City school closures

The long list of speakers at Thursday's Sacramento City Unified School District school board meeting showed community members have a lot to say about the proposed closure of 11 schools.

The long list of speakers at Thursday's Sacramento City Unified School District school board meeting showed community members have a lot to say about the proposed closure of 11 schools.

As occurred at a board meeting two weeks ago, parents, teachers and students packed into the board room, filling it to its 350- person capacity.

Where confusion and heartbreak filled the Jan. 18 meeting, those speaking against the closure plan at Thursday's board meeting came prepared with specific questions regarding their school closure or dissected the logic and financial figures used by the district.

"These meetings are an important reminder of who we serve – parents, students and communities," said Jeff Cuneo, board president. "What our constituents say matters. Our school board will take into account their ideas and concerns as we move closer to a final decision."

Sacramento City Unified trustees will vote Feb. 21 on whether to close the schools at the end of the school year. Thursday's school board meeting was a discussion item only and no vote was taken.

"I know we have major budget issues in our district," said Sylvia Nunez, a longtime teacher at Fruit Ridge Elementary, one of the schools scheduled to close. "But, the superintendent and board are going about this the wrong way. I've been working with the teachers union and for years we have spent many hours coming up with potential savings. We've been ignored."

Several parents questioned the district's reasoning for using capacity rates as its criteria for school closures instead of enrollment. They questioned the capacity numbers themselves, which were compiled by the district.

"I love this school. Don't close it," said Evelyn Romo, 10, who attends Fruit Ridge Elementary. "We have a library. It is nice and peaceful."

Romo and her brother, Felipe, wrote their speeches in pencil on lined paper before addressing the board.

"I was really nervous," said Felipe Romo, 8.

By closing the 11 schools, the district expects savings of approximately $2.5 million each year.

The closures will move 3,650 students to nearby schools.

The district has been holding community meetings at each of the schools slated for closure and has four more remaining.

"If there was easy things to do, they were done long, long ago," district Superintendent Jonathan Raymond told the crowd during a presentation on why the closures are needed to "right-size the district."

Raymond said the district, which has 47,000 students, has experienced a 10 percent enrollment decline in the past decade and anticipates losing another 800 students next year.

The schools considered for closure are Washington Elementary in midtown; Maple Elementary in south Sacramento; Collis P. Huntington Elementary in south Sacramento; Susan B. Anthony Elementary in Meadowview; Tahoe Elementary in Tahoe Park; Fruit Ridge Elementary in south Sacramento; James Marshall Elementary in Rosemont; Joseph Bonnheim Elementary in Colonial Village; Mark Hopkins Elementary in Meadowview; Bret Harte Elementary in Curtis Park; and Clayton B. Wire Elementary in south Sacramento.

While those at the schools have been the most vocal, residents living near schools slated to be closed have also voiced concerns.

"I know what happens to schools when they close," said Jerry Tamburino, a property owner in Tahoe Park.

"We are looking at a vacant building which will be a magnet for crime. That affects property values and quality of life."

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