Close schools, then what?

We can’t think of a sadder face to put on the state budget crisis than the closing of elementary schools. The last thing little kids—and their parents—need is to have their worlds so disrupted. But with a $1.1 million deficit in the Chico Unified School District, consolidation was something that needed to be done, and soon.

We’re not convinced that Nord and Jay Partridge were the right choices, however. And closure opponents have a point when they say the board has put the cart before the horse. There is no plan for new school boundaries, no plan for busing and no plan for what to do about “Form 10” transfers that have allowed parents to choose their children’s schools. Students may finish this school year not knowing where their classrooms, teachers and friends will be come August.

The board majority apparently considered closures the only option and looked to the Campus Consolidation Committee it had appointed for which schools to ax. But the committee didn’t recommend just closing Nord; it said to close Forest Ranch and Cohasset elementaries, as well. And it never got the chance to look at boundaries, moving sixth-graders or closing a junior high school. The idea of balancing campuses ethnically was apparently lost somewhere along the way.

Early last Friday morning, trustees spent hours chiseling out smaller cuts, only to come up short. It was like trying to fight a forest fire with a squirt gun. We won’t be surprised if the school closures turn out to save the CUSD less money than it thinks, and the district will be back to the lists and the tears next year.