April 13, 2010

The new condemned: Mt. Diablo Unified to draw up a list of schools to close

Trustees for this 55-school, 35,000-student district are intent on closing a school, or two, or three or more.  They haven't identified which schools that are likely to be on this condemned list. They will be talking about a timeline and criteria for closing schools at their meeting this evening.

Mt. Diablo Unified, like all districts around here, is facing horrendous budget times. Mt. Diablo's annual $300 million budget must shrink to $257 million Adding insult to this injury is the fact that Mt. Diablo's enrollment is declining--by more than 700 students. That means less money from the state. Mt. Diablo's per-pupil spending is around $8,388. 

By closing a school, the district could save $400,000 to $500,000, which trustees say could help maintain other vital programs in the district.

Obviously, this is a difficult, emotional issue. Kids and families become attached to their neighborhood school, even if--let's face it--some neighborhood schools are not such great schools. For many, the local elementary school in particular becomes the center of a neighborhood, of its identity and its social life. To split up students from one school and send them across town to others can mean the end of friendships and the loss of a sense of community.

I went through a school closure when I was in high school, and it was pretty awful for many of the students and faculty. This was at a time when the district I was in, the Acalanes Union district, was facing declines in enrollment. I did okay, starting a new school my junior year, but it was devastating for many of the juniors who had to split up and start a new high school their senior year.

The school closures in the Mt. Diablo district won't happen right away. Trustees will create a committee to evaluate campuses according to physical conditions size, academic performance, and proximity to other campuses. The committee will examine these issues, and the board will finalize its closure list by next January.


Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

They closed all the middle schools in my district, and I attended 8th grade in high school, and 7th grade with the k-7th. It was ok. I was more of a bookworm than a social butterfly, so it didn't break any friendships. I can see how devastating it will be to some relationships and emotions.

This is a tough world now.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully this opportunity is used to rid the district of some deadwood.