Elementary School Size Committee addresses enrollment decline
On October 22, 2018, the Elementary School Size Committee held its first meeting to assess the situation regarding the district’s elementary school sizes.
Due to the decrease of enrollment in elementary schools in the past five years, the committee has goals to determine “if the District’s elementary school sizes are ‘ideal’ fiscally and educationally”, according to Superintendent Jim Hogeboom.
Members of the Elementary School Size Committee include elementary school principals and staff representatives from each of the district’s elementary schools, as well as community and parent representatives. The eight elementary schools are Hamilton, Loma Verde, Lu Sutton, Lynwood, Olive, Pleasant Valley, Rancho and San Ramon.
Azella Metzger, a community representative and San Marin’s School Site Council chairperson, was elected to be on the committee partly because she was the Parent-Teacher Association President at Hill Middle school during its closure in 2011. Metzger believes that closure seems like the right thing to do now due to the inevitability of enrollment decline.
“Elementary school kids are much more adaptable than middle school and high school-aged kids,” Metzger said. “I don’t think a school closure would affect the community as much as people think.”
According to a public community address from Hogeboom on NUSD’s website, the process that the committee will take consists of two phases. The first phase focuses on laying down the basis of the situation: analyzing the pros and cons of the current school sizes and comparing them to other districts, determining the “ideal” NUSD school size, and ultimately, once the parameters of ideal school size have been thoroughly examined, it will be decided if a recommendation needs to be made to the Board in spring for any schools to close.
Phase two will take place if the committee sees that a recommendation needs to be made to potentially close a school. The recommendation would be made to the School Board in the spring of 2019, and any prospect of school closure will not occur until the fall of 2020.
If the consensus is to recommend closing a school, Metzger said that the initial effects would be difficulties in integrating a PTA, and teachers and students having to acclimate to new surroundings and possibly students dealing with separation from core friend groups. However, Metzger said that these effects will lessen with time.
According to a budget overview summary for the School Size Committee from 2018, school enrollment in 2019-2020 is projected to decrease by 400 from 2014-2015 levels. Considered budget solutions of the Budget Advisory Committee estimates that closing a school would save half a million dollars.
The Committee is currently not ready to make a decision of recommendation to the Board in Spring nor has a consensus been reached about what the ideal elementary school size is. Many members feel uncomfortable making premature opinions as the issue is still being debated.