The saga continues

Things don’t appear to be getting any easier.

After a nearly one-month break since its last meeting, the Chico school district’s Campus Consolidation Committee convened on Jan. 11 to discuss the five final cost-reduction scenarios proposed back in mid-December. Adding to the already difficult task, committee members announced that two new scenarios were to be examined before a final meeting on Jan. 18.

The over-capacity crowd made up of concerned parents, teachers and students filled seats and spilled into the aisles of Chico Junior High School’s Durst Theatre, forcing the meeting to be moved to the cafeteria.

Members of the audience sported shirts with school logos to show their support at what they thought was the committee’s final meeting before making its recommendation to the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the committee as a whole agreed that closure of three small elementary schools, Forest Ranch, Cohasset and Nord, as proposed in all five of the original final scenarios, would cause transportation difficulties for children having to travel long distances by bus to get to in-town school sites as well as possibly leaving vacated campuses open to vandalism.

In addition to closing the three small schools, Scenario One also calls for Jay Partridge Elementary to close. Scenario Two 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.

Committee members Ann Hayes, Byron Jackson and Eileen Robinson expressed discontent with the fact that each calls for the closure of all the three small schools. Robinson and Hayes eventually announced that they each had prepared new scenarios to be considered.

Robinson’s proposal called for the closure of Hooker Oak, Sierra View and Chapman elementaries and closing either Nord or Cohasset. It also called for the re-opening of Chapman as an Open Structure program.

Chapman is in its fourth year as a “corrective-action school” and is currently implementing an “alternative governance” system. If the district chose to move a program into Chapman, it would take on responsibility for bringing test scores up.

Hayes did not present her scenario but said it would be ready for discussion at the committee’s final meeting. Both scenarios must wait for analysis from Cheryl and Jamie King of Jack Schreder & Associates to see if they fit numerical criteria before the committee discusses them any further.

The crowd of more than 200 parents, teachers and students from the small schools, as well as a large number from Rosedale and Sierra View, were for the most part patient during the committee’s discussion, only occasionally breaking the silence with boos and cheers.

During the public-comment portion of the meeting, the general consensus was that the small schools served as the heart of their communities and closing them would be detrimental.

Now the committee faces the inevitability of deciding on a recommendation at its final meeting on Jan. 18.

After the meeting, committee Chair Paul Moore said members will have to “bite the bullet” and come up with a recommendation next week, whether they like the proposals or not. He said it would have been nice to have come up with a recommendation at Tuesday’s meeting, but he knew there was a good chance that the committee would meet again.

"I was optimistic, but realistic."