Pasadena Unified to Close Jefferson, Franklin and Roosevelt Campuses After Vote

Rising costs and falling school enrollment numbers result in long-dreaded closings

Published : Friday, September 27, 2019 | 3:39 AM


Jackson and Washington Elementary schools and Don Benito Fundamental escaped the PUSD board’s scythe Thursday while Jefferson, Franklin, and Roosevelt elementary schools will close and combine with other campuses following a 4-3 vote by the Pasadena’s Board of Education on three consolidation “resolutions.”

Board Members Scott Phelps, Elizabeth Pomeroy,  Roy Boulghourjian and President Lawrence Torres voted in favor of the final resolution, labeled “2525.”

Franklin’s student body will be consolidated into Altadena Elementary.  Jefferson’s students, along with its dual language immersion program will move to Longfellow while adjusting its school boundaries. Roosevelt’s students will move to the Madison Elementary school campus. The final resolutions came after nearly 20 options were whittled down to the three resolutions in a Board Boundary Subcommittee meeting on Monday.

The consolidation vote came after yet another hours-long board meeting, with a long queue of school groups, students, faculty members, staff members and parents of various schools, begging for their campuses and programs to remain open in the face of cuts they knew were going to happen.

The Board’s meeting room was completely packed, as were the hallways and other rooms set up to watch the meeting.

The cuts came even in the face of Pasadena City Councilmember Victor Gordo commentary. Gordo stood before the Board and urged the Members to wait two weeks and “hold a town hall meeting.”

“We need to engage in a clear and deliberate public process,” Gordo told the Board. His words fell on deaf ears, as Board member Michelle Richardson-Bailey mused, “What will that accomplish? It won’t change anything.”

A motion by Board Member Patrick Cahalan to consider Gordo’s suggestion lost 2-5.

Mayor Terry Tornek was also at the meeting.

So many community members were eager to speak that in some cases, one speaker spoke to the Board for a dozen or so students or staff representing  a particular school.

As one parent told the Board members, “This is not about ‘save this school or that school.’ This is ‘Save Pasadena.’”

Lower birth rates, high cost of local housing and the rise of charter schools in the District have all been cited as factors in the dramatic plummeting of student numbers citywide. The lower numbers have lowered the amount of state money the school district receives from the state, an amount which is based on daily attendance.

“Enrollment has been dropping since 2000,” said Board Member Scott Phelps, following the meeting. “We’ve closed 10 schools since 2000.”

Phelps acknowledged that early school cuts affected campuses “around the edges of the district,” but that this was the first time major cuts and consolidations were considered in the District’s “core.”

“This is such a stressful thing to go through,” added Phelps. “I don’t want to go through this  again.”

A visibly pained president Lawrence Torres, PUSD Board president, concurred, saying, “This is such an excruciating thing to go through. No one runs for School Board to close schools.”

Torres added, “One thing I have learned in politics is ‘Don’t let politics be the enemy of the good. We can’t be perfect. We just have to be as good as we can be.”

Board Member Roy Boulghourjian mused, “This is like trying to decide which of my children to give away, but I try to think of it as just making them share bedrooms.”

The Board will next consider closing middle and high schools over the next few months. Board member Kimberly Kenne noted that the District “cannot afford to have four high schools open.”

Board member Phelps, noting the long and agonizing process of consolidating the three elementary schools, speculated that the Board may simply await the return of School Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald next week, and let PUSD staff come up with solutions to bring to the Board for discussion and an ultimate vote.

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