School closures down to five choices

“Is our X-Mas present going to be closing down the schools?” That was the question on a sign plastered on the back wall of Chico Jr. High School’s Durst Theater at the Dec. 14 meeting of the Campus Consolidation Committee.

While Tuesday’s meeting lacked the excitement of the Nov. 30 meeting, the CUSD Board of Trustees-appointed committee, at the behest of Chairman Paul Moore, did manage to reduce the field of 14 scenarios down to five.

Moore stressed that committee members should consider only the scenarios that would help reach the district’s goal of saving $1 million. “We need to look at options that come close to our goal,” he said.

Cheryl and Jamie King of Jack Schreder & Associates were again on hand to provide demographic analysis to the committee.

Jamie King presented a chart to the committee that broke down enrollment figures for all 16 schools in the district. The purpose of the chart was to show which school closures were most tangible based on whether nearby campuses could accommodate displaced students.

After looking at all 14 proposed scenarios, committee members narrowed them down to the five that best fit the criteria, which include saving the district sufficient money, promoting ethnic diversity and causing the least amount of disruption to students.

All five scenarios call for the closure of three small schools, Forest Ranch, Cohasset and Nord elementaries. One scenario also calls for Jay Partridge Elementary to close; another would close Jay Partridge and Hooker Oak and reopen the latter school as a K-8 Open Structure program. The third scenario would close Rosedale, while the fourth would close Rosedale and Hooker Oak and reopen the latter as a K-8 Open Structure program. The fifth scenario would close Hooker Oak and Sierra View, move Academics Plus to Rosedale, move the GATE Program to Chapman, split Sierra View neighborhood students between Parkview and Marigold and reopen Sierra View as a K-8 Open Structure program.

Each of the scenarios would save the district more than $900,000.

Moore said he expected members to come to the committee’s next meeting with lists of pros and cons and additional questions regarding the five proposals. “At the next meeting we’ll have a broader conversation where the facts will be clearer,” he said.

Afterwards Moore said the small schools were more vulnerable to closure because they had fewer students. He empathized with audience members who considered those campuses as community centers. He said the discussion could deviate from the proposed five scenarios when committee members introduce new ideas at their Jan. 11 meeting.

Cindy Kampf, district representative to the committee, said after the meeting that school closure isn’t a popular topic, but in the broad picture it’s a less harmful way of saving the district money.

“The money saved from closing schools is money not being taken away from programs,” Kampf said.

The Campus Consolidation Committee, which was originally scheduled to make a recommendation to the School Board on Dec. 15, will meet two more times in longer sessions before making its final report on Jan 19.