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San Diego Unified To Get Community Input On Closing Schools

Audio

Aired 9/14/11

San Diego city schools had to make deep cuts including laying off hundreds of teachers to make ends meet for the school year that has just started. The district is already considering closing about 10 schools to reduce costs next year.

— This week San Diego Unified staff members will start meeting with representatives from 10 of the district’s 16 clusters of schools.

Board of Education trustees gave staff approval Tuesday night to move ahead with plans to talk with the clusters about which schools in those areas could be closed next fall.

The district is hoping that closing or consolidating schools could save about $5 million for the coming school year.

A committee of district staff members has been meeting since January to identify areas of the city with schools that are not being used to their full capacity or meet other criteria to be considered for closure.

Those committee members will go to cluster meetings now through mid-October to discuss their findings and gather community input.

“We’ll give them our initial data - I mean we’ve been meeting since January," said Phil Stover, deputy superintendent of business. But then we want to hear from them what schools they would suggest be closed. And we know that it’s a very difficult, very challenging and emotional concept.”

Community members from areas identified for possible closures told board of education trustees they felt the process was already skewed in favor of schools in more affluent neighborhoods.

"It was really apparent to those of us in the Crawford Cluster that there were clusters missing from the list," said Becky Breedlove, who is leader of the cluster of schools in the eastern portion of the Mid City area. "And those that came to our minds at first, we immediately thought of Scripps, La Jolla, Mira Mesa and San Diego High."

Trustees acknowledged that closing schools can be a painful and contentious process, but urged staff to look for possible closures that would benefit the district in the long run.

"I don't believe we should say we're looking at closing schools to solve a next year's budget problem," said Trustee Scott Barnett. "We need to look at right-sizing the district in order to meet our goals. What was happening last year - and it's going to happen again in next year's budget - is we're degrading these programs by cutting away a few million in the magnet program and the [International Baccalaureate] program and language at all schools."

The 10 clusters identified as having schools that could possibly be closed are Mission Bay, Clairemont, Crawford, Henry, Hoover, Kearny, Madison, Morse, Serra , Point Loma and Atypical Schools.

Schools will be recommended for closure or consolidation based on factors like 10-year enrollment trends, the proportion of resident children enrolled at the school and student performance trends.

The district considered closing six schools in 2009. In the end it only closed one, North Park Elementary.

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