In May, we learned that Oakland Unified’s financial team was recommending the closure or merger of 10-17 schools because of declining enrollment. Well, those tough discussions are about to happen. Starting tomorrow.
During a special meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. tomorrow night (That will probably be 5 p.m. sharp — the interim supe, Roberta Mayor, seems to run a pretty tight ship), the board discusses the district’s long-term plan and the question of school size.
Here’s a quote I pulled from the presentation. Feel free to respond to these questions:
What is a right-sized school? There are programmatic considerations: Can a school be
too small to offer the programs all students should be able to access? Can a school be too
small to allow for professional learning communities to flourish? Can a school be too small
to allow flexibility in placement of students?
The time-line of this “right-sizing” business (oh, that term again!) should play out like this, if the plan isn’t derailed somehow, like last year:
- Sept. 3 – School board discusses closure/merger criteria.
- Sept. 8-18 – Five district-wide community forums on school size (I have requested the schedule and will post it when I get it).
- Oct. 1 – School board votes on closure criteria
- Oct. 2-3 – Staff creates the list of schools to be possibly closed or merged.
- Oct. 8 – The board votes on that list of schools.
- October and November – More community meetings…
- Dec. 3 – Presentation of the final “right-sizing plan.”
- Dec. 17 – The board votes on the plan (and the potential closures).
- July 2009 – The changes take effect.
Here is the full presentation, which includes some hints as to how staff might be leaning, some optimal school sizes, etc. You might check out Slides 12-14, which compare sample budgets of two elementary, middle and high schools of different sizes.
What are your thoughts? Are there schools — intentionally small, or otherwise — that are so small that they just aren’t able to offer enough to students? Do you agree that school closures are fiscally prudent for a district with such dramatically declining enrollment? If so, how do you decide how small is too small?