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Sacramento City district trustees vote to close seven schools

By Melody Gutierrez

Trustees in the Sacramento City Unified School District voted 4-3 to close seven schools at the end of this school year after a lengthy school board meeting Thursday night.

The schools that will be closed are Washington, Maple, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim, Mark Hopkins and Clayton B. Wire. Trustees Jeff Cuneo, Patrick Kennedy, Jay Hansen and Darrel Woo voted in favor of the closures, while Gustavo Arroyo, Diana Rodriguez and Christina Pritchett voted against them.
Board members were scheduled to vote on the closure of 10 elementary schools on Thursday, but three were pulled from the list at the start of the meeting. Superintendent Jonathan Raymond said concerns raised about the closure of Susan B. Anthony, Bret Harte and James Marshall warranted a second look.
Raymond said enrollment at Susan B. Anthony and Bret Harte will be affected by residential developments planned near the schools. The superintendent said he heard objections from some James Marshall parents whose children would have been zoned for A.M. Winn, which is transitioning to a Waldorf-inspired school.
The board is scheduled to vote on whether to close Tahoe Elementary or Mark Twain Elementary at a March 7 meeting.
"School closures are a part of what needs to happen in our district," School board president Jeff Cuneo said. "The fact is we have not enough kids for our schools at this time."
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:
There was relief for some in the capacity crowd at the Sacramento City Unified School District board room, where trustees were scheduled to vote Thursday night on whether to close 10 elementary schools.
Superintendent Jonathan Raymond pulled three elementary schools from the closure list, prompting brief and sporadic applause before someone shouted for the room to stand together. From there, those who stayed, did.
"We won't let you divide and conquer us," several speakers told the board, which heard hours of public comment during Thursday's board meeting. The board continued hearing from the public late into the night. After the completion of public comments, trustees were to discuss and vote on the closures.
Three schools were pulled from the closure list soon after the meeting started - Susan B. Anthony, Bret Harte and James Marshall.
Raymond said enrollment at Susan B. Anthony and Bret Harte will be affected by residential developments planned near the schools.
The superintendent said he heard objections from some James Marshall parents whose children would have been zoned for A.M. Winn, which is transitioning to a Waldorf-inspired school.
The schools remaining on the closure list are Washington, Maple, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim, Mark Hopkins and Clayton B. Wire.
The board is scheduled to vote on whether to close Tahoe Elementary or Mark Twain Elementary at a March 7 meeting.
Before Thursday's meeting, several board members said they had no idea how the vote would play out.
"I'm keeping my mind open," trustee Patrick Kennedy said Wednesday.
Trustees Christina Pritchett, Diana Rodriguez and Gustavo Arroyo expressed concerns about the closure proposal at a board meeting earlier this month. On Wednesday, Pritchett called for the district to ditch the current proposal.
There has been significant pushback in the six weeks since Raymond proposed the closure of 11 elementary schools. The district said the closures are necessary to address declining enrollment and a structural deficit.
Raymond has called the proposal "right-sizing" the district. On Thursday, speakers deemed it "wrong-sizing."
The urban district of 47,000 students has lost 10 percent of its enrollment in the past decade and anticipates further declines in the coming years, including 800 students next school year.
In those 10 years of enrollment declines, the district has closed six traditional schools. Five of those schools have become charter schools, which has been an issue with some critics of the district's closure proposal.
The district expects a savings of $1.5 million annually by closing the seven schools remaining on the closure list. Raymond said the district is facing a deficit for next school year of between $5.1 million and $11 million because of declining enrollment and rising costs.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/21/5208078/sac-city-school.html#storylink=...

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