Last night Coalition members, including myself, attended a meeting at Washington Elementary school hosted by Sacramento City Council Member Steve Hansen and SCUSD Board member Jay Hansen to gauge neighborhood support for reopening the school. Steve Hansen opened the meeting by saying that he had been working behind the scenes since the closure of Washington Elementary to reopen it. It's closure has left a hole in the community.
School board member Jay Hansen gave some more background information on the Washington. The school was one of the oldest in the district (though the building is newer). One of its assets is that it's adjacent to a city park. It still supports a child care program. At the time of its closure it had the second lowest enrollment in the district. It would need an enrollment of 300 to be "self-supporting". He thinks that the best way to achieve that is for the school to be a neighborhood school with an attendance boundary, but also a program focus like art or language immersion. That would draw students from outside the area to bolster enrollment. The school wouldn't have to have that enrollment on the first day, but it would have to achieve that within a few years to be successful.
Steve Hansen says there is new single family housing coming into the area that could also help bolster enrollment. David Fisher, spokesperson from SCTA which supports reopening the school, stated that the district will be working to bring back class size reduction in grades K-3. There will be a demand for more classroom space, and that will create capacity problems at the schools that received students after the closures. That could also help enrollment at Washington if it reopens. Neighbors attending the meeting said that there are children in the neighborhood that could attend the reopened school. One said he knew some residents had moved to midtown to be within walking distance of the school; because of its closure they are now considering moving away.
There is a timeline of a couple of months for staff to consider all the logistics for reopening the school and present a plan to the board. Jay Hansen said that he believes there is a willingness on the board to consider reopening the school. Until it's on the agenda the board can't legally discuss it because of the Brown Act. Steve Hansen would like to open the school the fall of 2015, but Jay Hansen thinks that an opening in the fall of 2016 would be more doable. Steve Hansen said that his staff will put up an electronic form so that parents could show their support for reopening the school and enrolling their children. Hopefully there will also be an effort to canvas residents about the reopening.
The meeting was well attended. Those there overwhelmingly supported reopening Washington as a neighborhood school. They were equally supportive of an art or a Spanish immersion program. One attendee who is a resident of midtown, reported that he was preparing to present a charter proposal to the SCUSD board for a Montessori school with a STEM focus. He said that he has 75 students already signed up and they are interested in the Washington facility. Charters get first dibs on facilities, but since the district is considering reopening the school that might not be the case in this instance.
The Coalition will be following the process on reopening Washington, and will keep you informed on the progress.