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Community News

Oak Grove School District Board Closes Two Schools
February 13, 2003

Reported and written by Scott Scholz

The Oak Grove School District Board unanimously decided to close San Anselmo Elementary School and Blossom Valley Elementary School effective immediately following the 2002-2003 school year at their Thursday evening Board Meeting. The closing of the two schools will save about $900,000 per year for the district. Leasing the two closed school properties could reduce the projected district budget deficit, currently estimated at five million dollars per year, from 1 to 1.5 million dollars per year. The district budget expects to lose 2 to 3 million dollars in state funds and do not expect another 1 million dollars in a Cost of Living Adjustment in next years budget.

The district noted a loss of 600 students since 1995 and projects a loss of another 500 students by the year 2010. The district has increased staff compensation to competitive levels to maintain the investment in staff. Energy costs have risen by $560,000 over the past two years while consumption has remained about the same with the exception of consumption due to recent refrigeration additions. The district has committed to the reduced class size program although it hasn't been fully funded by the State to the tune of a $1,000,000 shortfall. The district also cited growing special education and transportation costs and noted that the Federal and State governments have only been sharing 17% of the costs instead of the expected 40% of costs. The district does collect a $68 per parcel tax but the $68 has lost about 1/3 of its purchasing power since it was passed by voters eleven years ago.

Given all of this budget information, a task force was formed to determine recommendations to close the budget shortfall. The 31 member task force was comprised in large part by a representative from each school in the district. Each member had one equal vote. The task force determined school closure was the only option to solve the problem and to also ensure the school kids had the same quality education expected by all. The recommendation of the task force was to close one or more schools and they determined, in alphabetical order, Blossom Valley, Glider and San Anselmo as possible schools for closure. Some of the critical criteria the task force used to determine schools for closure were:

Superintendent Manny Barbera accepted the recommendation of the task force and recommended closure of two schools as previously reported. Glider is on flatter ground and had more room for growth should portables be needed. Glider also had a additional facility closure cost of $600,000 to $700,000.

With the decision to close the two schools made, a time line has been developed for the upcoming months:

February 14Letters will go out regarding the "transition placement"
February 14 to March 7"Transition placement requests due"
March 1Principal announcements
March 10 to March 14Finalize "administrative reassignments"
March 10 to April 4Handle staff transfer requests
March 15Notify parents of "administrative reassignment" of students

Children in the Silver Leaf neighborhood will be administratively assigned to Glider Elementary School. Children in the Palmia/Palm Valley development can choose to attend Oak Ridge Elementary School or Bertha Taylor Elementary School. The rest of Blossom Valley students will be administratively assigned to Bertha Taylor. Students who attend Oak Ridge would then attend Leonard Herman Intermediate School and those who attend Bertha Taylor would then attend Bernal Intermediate School.

Children in the Ford Road area previously bussed to San Anselmo would be bussed to Earl Frost Elementary School. Children west of San Ignacio and north of San Anselmo including Du Sault would be administratively assigned to Santa Teresa Elementary School and those on the other side of the boundary would be assigned to Julia Baldwin Elementary School.

District 2 City Council member, Forrest Williams, addressed the board and recognized that the board has a difficult decision. He had to make a similar decision 17 before when he was on the Oak Grove School Board when Calero and Dickenson were closed. "Hindsight says it is the right decision." "Wherever you go to school in this district, you will receive a quality education."

Just before the vote, each board member made comments on their decision.

Yvonne Cook, Member, said this distasteful decision to make is like not resuscitating a loved one. Both schools have proud histories. Two of her children went to San Anselmo. She believed this decision to be the fiscally responsible decision to make. She was going to mourn with our community tonight. It is important to her not to cut the class size reduction programs, or lay off employees or lose the visual arts programs or other after school programs. She said Sacramento plays financial roulette day to day with children's education. "It is a crime."

Dianne Lemke, Member, said she didn't take this decision lightly. We can no longer afford the luxury of small schools. More cuts loom in the future, but she wants to keep programs and the employees. Tearfully, she said prisons do better than our children.

Kristi Porter, Member, agreed this is a very difficult decision. She had seven children attend San Anselmo School and lives across the street. She spent 25 years at San Anselmo School. However, she loves all the schools in this district. It is a necessary decision and without it the Board would not be able to say they were providing the same service next year as they did this year. She felt the decision was made by the community.

Jacquelyn Adams, Vice President, said this is a difficult decision. It was not what she got on the school board to do. She believed delaying this decision would not be in the best interest of the district.

Dennis Hawkins, President, thanked everyone for the community input from all of the schools and other stakeholders. He commended the staff for their professionalism and responsiveness to the community. He felt the recommendations were reasonable as it will save $900,000 of a $5,000,000 shortfall. He called for a motion, moved by Jacquelyn Adams and second by Dianne Lemke. All Board Members approved the motion.

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