Pasadena Unified Faces Decision Day: School Board to Vote on School Closings Thursday

Pasadena Unified Faces Decision Day: School Board to Vote on School Closings Thursday

Published : Thursday, September 26, 2019 | 4:41 AM

[Updated] A dreaded moment has arrived for the Pasadena Unified School District. Tonight, the Pasadena Board of Education is scheduled to name at least three schools for closure.

Relentless shrinking enrollment has seen the number of its students fall by 1,259 in the last five years.

Interim PUSD Board President Dr. David Verdugo said in a statement Tuesday that the District’s “resources are spread thin across 27 school campuses that serve 16,000 students.”

To deal with the dilemma, the School Board tonight will consider recommendations on the number and location of school sites the District should keep open in the next five to 10 years.

These are the five initial options that the Board may consider Thursday:

Option one: Franklin Elementary will close, and its students will move to Altadena Elementary. Along with that move, Jefferson Elementary will close, with its students directed to Longfellow Elementary. Roosevelt Elementary will also close, with its students directed to Madison Elementary.

Option two: Franklin Elementary will close, with students directed to Altadena Elementary. Jefferson Elementary’s Spanish Dual Language Immersion program will also close and the program will move to Washington Elementary School. This plan would condense Jefferson school’s boundaries. Roosevelt Elementary will also close, with its students directed to Altadena Elementary.

Option three: Jefferson Elementary’s Spanish Dual Language Immersion program will close, and the program will move to Washington Elementary School. Under this plan, Jefferson’s boundaries would shrink, while Boundaries for Longfellow Elementary, Norma Coombs Elementary and Webster Elementary’s boundaries would grow, while Jefferson Elementary’s boundaries would once again shrink, as in Option two. Roosevelt Elementary would also close, with students directed to Madison Elementary. Option three would also see the closure of Don Benito Fundamental Elementary with students directed to Norma Coombs Elementary and Webster Elementary schools. Franklin Elementary would also close, with its students moving to Altadena Elementary.

Option four is similar to Option three, but with the addition of the consolidation of Jackson and Franklin Elementary schools. Franklin would serve kindergarten through second grade. Jackson would serve grades three to five.

Option five is the same as Options three and four, but would include the closure of Don Benito Fundamental Elementary, with those students being directed to Norma Coombs Elementary and Webster Elementary schools.

The Board will deliberate on recommendations for secondary schools in October, said Verdugo. The Board will then consider high school closures later in the year.

According to Pasadena Unified spokesperson Hilda Ramirez Horvath, the Board considered the following factors in their decisions—a preference for good facility conditions or presence of special program facilities; maximizing capacity use of sites; promoting socio-economic diversity and ethnic balance; a preference for schools with high enrollment, and for schools located where a significant number of school age children reside.

Board Member Michelle Richardson Bailey, who was adamantly against school closings last year, said Wednesday that she had come to a reluctant realization.

“It just doesn’t make sense to have schools open where we don’t have enough students and we have to put funding resources into those schools, and so it stretches what we’re able to do,” she said. “Whereas if we have the students more concentrated, we could pour more resources into those campuses that are full of students and all the students get to benefit more.”

Board Member Kimberly Kenne agreed with Richardson, saying that she wanted the community to understand that the Board has “a vision of where we want our district to be in five to 10 years.”

“It’s okay to be smaller, but we need to have the appropriate number of sites so that we can maximize what we’re doing with our dollars for the kids,” Kenne said.

Board Member Scott Phelps sounded almost contrite Tuesday.

“I just want to say to the public that we know this has been a terribly stressful process for a lot of parents and it’s stressful for us too,” said Phelps. “I guess I would like to say sorry to all the people that have had to go through this.”

Kenne expressed concern late Wednesday regarding the number of actual options to be voted upon.

In a letter to PUSD Board Members, Kenne wrote, “At last Thursday’s board meeting, the committee and staff were asked to meet and narrow down the consolidation alternatives to two or three. This meeting was held on Monday 9/23 and consensus on three alternatives was reached.”

But Thursday’s agenda includes all five of the original options, Kenne pointed out.

“There is discussion that the Board will be asked to vote on all five, clearly a change to the direction given by the Board at our last meeting. Any changes to that direction of the board should only occur at a public meeting of the board to avoid violating the Brown Act,” she said.

The Board agenda should reflect only the three alternatives selected by the staff and committee on September 23, said Kenne, who added that “the pros/cons for each alternative chosen and not chosen, should be posted with the meeting agenda.”

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