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Pritchett: Scrap SCUSD Plan to Close Schools, Start Over

The school board trustee representing Rosemont speaks out against the district's plan to close 11 schools.

Some students in Rosemont may see their elementary school close next year, but not if their school board member has anything to say about it.

Christina Pritchett, a first-year trustee on the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education, says she's opposed to the district's plan to close 11 under-enrolled elementary schools, including James W. Marshall Elementary School in Rosemont.

"I'm wiling to make the hard decisions–we just need to make sure we're making the right choices," Pritchett said in a phone interview last week. "The plan that was proposed to us was flawed."

On Thursday, the school board heard hours of comments from numerous parents, students and other community members on the topic, extending the board's meeting until about midnight, Pritchett said.

She said while she's not opposed to the idea of closing schools to save money, the current proposal compares apples to oranges and is rushed.

"They can't use the same yardstick for every school across the board," she said.

Pritchett said she's heard passionate arguments for saving each school in the district's list of proposed closures, and gets a new email about the topic "every five minutes."

But she has several arguments for saving James Marshall, the school in the area she represents.

Its Academic Performance Index scores are the highest of the 11 schools targeted for closure, and it's the only school with a number higher than 800, the state's goal. 

Last year, nearby A.M. Winn Elementary School avoided closure in part by reconfiguring itself to a Waldorf-style campus. If James Marshall closes, many of its students would be sent to A.M. Winn, and Pritchett said she's heard from parents who don't want to send their kids to a Waldorf-style school.

James Marshall was also completely rebuilt and renovated 10 years ago, so it makes sense to continue to use it, Pritchett said.

But she acknowledges the district needs to find a way to close its budget gap: Pritchett suggests forming another 7-11 committee, the group that provided recommendations for school consolidations and closures in 2011.

She also said all possibilities should be on the table to save money: the idea of closing or consolidating middle and high schools, as well as the district's under-performing "priority schools."

"The Board of Education needs to look at the entire picture and not just the schools that are under-enrolled," she said. "The current plan needs to just go away and we just need to start over."

The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Feb. 21.

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MMuller February 13, 2013 at 01:48 AM
Let's face it. AM Winn should never have been saved. It didn't deserve it. The only reason it was saved is because Superintendent Raymond wanted to use it to pilot the "Waldorf-style" curriculum in a public school (coincidentally he has two kids in an official Waldorf school). So he came up with a bunch of BS reasons to save it and sold the Board on it.
Brad February 13, 2013 at 11:01 AM
While I applaud an attempt to find a win-win out of this, I seriously doubt busing will be cost-effective. Besides, "open enrollment" kills communities if you ask me and it is a policy that should not be allowed except in very extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, it has become far too popular nowadays.
Brad February 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM
It has everything to do with districts. SCUSD has too many schools and not enough students because its budget is blown-out by taking care of schools it shouldn't be spending on. If you are going to close schools then the ones that shouldn't even be under their responsibility should be the first to go. Period. And besides, everything that MMuller mentioned is even more compelling. Nope, it's time for Rancho kids and parents to take care of themselves, they voted to leave the county, now they can deal with it. I do agree with you though that a clear line (post 1975, when over half of this community wasn't even built) should be drawn, and that the district line should be Bradshaw (not Mayhew) because that is the county line. After all, things change a lot in 38 years, apparently unless of course if you're a school district that doesn't know how to prioritize school closures, that is. Everything west should be SCUSD and everything east should be Folsom-Cordova. End of story, mam.
MMuller February 14, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Another issue is the way they determined "Enrollment Capacity". They are claiming that it was done fairly simply because the same criterion was applied to all of the schools, but the very criterion itself is unfair. They counted every single room that was not being used as an instructional classroom (with the exception of the library and cafeteria) as 33 (except the teachers lounge because it was smaller). There is a problem with this on several levels. First: That is the maximum class size for grades 4th thru 6th. The maximum class size for 1st thru 3rd is only 31. So they're trying to claim that all of those classrooms could and would be taken up by 4th to 6th grade classes - not likely. Second: James Marshall only has one empty classroom. The rest are being used for various programs like day care, computer lab, occupational therapy, speech therapy, intervention, pre-school, START, etc. So converting them to classrooms means eliminating those services. Third: When James Marshall was rebuilt in 2004, 5 additional classrooms were built that were not included in the intended plan - a contractor's error. Fourth: Under the district's sustainable facilities master plan - one of the items stated that the current classrooms are of insufficient size for classes larger than 30 - yet currently , there are over thirty per classroom and the rooms not being used as classrooms are being counted at over 30. The district stacked the deck against the schools to legitimize their proposal.
Andrea Raymond February 17, 2013 at 09:27 PM
If you are going with the Rancho boundary theory, that would also include booting George Washington Carver High School, which by itself, has a budget of over 2 million each year -- and houses way less students than their capacity. The districts new assessment of "maximum capacity" is waaaay different than a report submitted a few years ago when the first round of school closures came through (much higher now). These were reports publicly submitted and, in my opinion, is proof they are fudging the numbers.

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