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Letter to the SCUSD Board of Education:

       For the past ten years, the Sacramento City Unified School District has closed schools piecemeal, even when attempting to put a process like a 7-11 committee in place. Now with its back against the wall financially,  the district believes it must close a large number of schools to remain solvent. To address the declining enrollment and over capacity in the district, planning should have begun by considering  the best way to serve the needs of all of the current population of students in the district.  Only then should  discussion have begin on which facilities to remain in service or to close. Yet with the release of the school closure list, it still seems that the district isn't making these decisions with the best interests of all the students of the district in mind. What happened to the district's watch words "access and equity"? Indeed, Governor Brown has urged us to go beyond mere equity because "Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice". Instead it seems that the district is retreating.
      While calling for "right sizing" the district and closing schools that make the most sense, (regardless of whatever programs are in place since "programs can be moved"), the school closure list reveals that right sizing was not the most  important factor in the decision making process.  Three of  the Superintendent's Priority Schools will remain open, in spite of the fact they are under enrolled. Oak Ridge was on a closure list two years ago because of low enrollment and  the poor shape of its facility. Now it will be a "receiving school" for students from Bret Harte and Fruitridge Elementary Schools. Schools with criteria like Phoebe Hearst and Camellia, which can pick and chose their students from all over the district, will remain open while neighborhood  schools are closed.  The district is effectively abandoning Curtis Park and Tahoe Park elementary students. Neither was any consideration given to closing the small high schools, which are also under enrolled, and housing  their programs on a larger campus to save money. 
      Recently two more neighborhood schools, Caleb Greenwood and A.M. Winn were converted to specialized programs. Another small high school is scheduled to open next fall. What happens if parents in those neighborhoods don't chose those programs for their children, or worse, the schools don't choose them? It doesn't matter that the district offers many schools to choose from if parents don't have the means to get their children to the school of their choice. The majority of students in the district still attend a neighborhood school. The result of these proposed closures is that students who are in special schools are the winners and students at neighborhood schools are the losers.
       If board members are acting in the public trust and the best interests of all the students of the district, they should be asking these questions:

  • Why aren't the recommendations from the most recent  7-11 committee being used as a starting point in this process? 
  • What is the student-teacher ratio for the capacity reports? Theodore Judah has only 22 classrooms. It's capacity is listed as 838. Bret Harte has 26 classrooms. It's capacity is listed as 981. That is 38 students per classroom. How will special education classes be accommodated?
  • As the economy improves the funds may return for smaller class sizes. Where would they be housed since these schools have been closed? Will that result in more money to those who sell portable i.e. modular classrooms?
  • Where is the economic analysis of the impact on families by the closing  of the schools? How do these small children get to school if their parents can't drive them? Mark Twain Elementary is miles away from Tahoe Park.  Long distances make it difficult or impossible for students and parents to participate in school activities.
  • Why aren't the small high schools being considered for closure? The district spends far more resources on the under enrolled small high schools than on neighborhood elementary schools. Money spent ensuring elementary students can succeed reduces the need for expensive interventions for high school students.
  • Why does the district continue supporting  the "magnet schools" like Phoebe Hearst and Camellia Basic that now only serve the students of parents who have the means to drive their children across the district to attend them? Schools with criteria that can that kick out children who fall behind are not true public schools.  The district shouldn't be closing neighborhood schools while leaving these schools open.
  • One of the biggest urban infill projects in the city will be getting underway at the Curtis Park Railyards. Where will those children go to school if Bret Harte is closed? New housing is in the future for East Sacramento as well. What consideration has been given to future population growth in the district?
  • Fruitridge Elementary recently had a lot of work done on it to make the physical plant better. Why is it on the closure list?
  • Bret Harte, Washington and Tahoe are all close to parks, which means the students have access to outdoor experiences. Why are Washington students being sent to William Land which has a tiny campus and no turf area playgrounds?

     As members of previous 7-11 committees, we urge you to ask these questions and consider the answers carefully. If this list is approved in its current, the board and the district will be abandoning the worthy goal of every neighborhood having a school that serves the needs of its children.
Heidi McLean, Chairperson
Kate Lenox, Secretary
Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education

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