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Mt. Diablo district superintendent’s school closure recommendation

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 at 8:50 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Students and parents pack Mt. Diablo school board meeting, urging trustees not to close their schools.

Students and parents pack Mt. Diablo school board meeting, urging trustees not to close their schools.

By Theresa Harrington

In a change from usual procedure, Mt. Diablo school board President Gary Eberhart asked Superintendent Steven Lawrence to wait until after public comments on Tuesday before revealing his school closure recommendation. There was no written staff report and Lawrence’s Powerpoint presentation wasn’t posted online until after the meeting was over.

This left the public in the dark while comments were being made and didn’t give people a chance to express opinions about the new recommendation. Surprisingly, trustees also voiced no opinions about the recommendation.

Here’s what Lawrence proposed:

Close either Wren Avenue or Holbrook elementary in Concord and consolidate Crossroads and the Summit/TLC/Nueva Vista small necessary high school programs on the closed campus.

Close Glenbrook Middle School in Concord and create a special education program with the nonpublic school Seneca on the site. Also, provide office space for Measure C district staff.

Redraw boundary lines around Meadow Homes Elementary, sending some children to other schools so that the district won’t have to spend $91,000 a year busing them as “overflow” students.

According to Lawrence’s Powerpoint presentation, new boundaries for Holbrook, Wren and Glenbrook students have already been drawn:

About 177 Holbrook students would move to Sun Terrace Elementary and about 153 would move to Wren Avenue. Students who attend on transfers would go to their home schools or apply for transfers elsewhere.

The district projected that enrollment at Holbrook would decline from 397 in 2010-11 to 355 in five years. However, I’m not sure if this took into consideration anecdotal reports from local residents regarding an expected influx of Coast Guard families in the neighborhood.

If Wren Avenue closes, about 99 students would move to Holbrook, 133 would move to El Monte, 31 would move to Westwood and 33 would move to Monte Gardens.

The district projected that enrollment at Wren Avenue would increase from 386 this year to 397 in five years, if the school remains open.

If Glenbrook closes, about 243 students would go to El Dorado Middle School, 52 would go to Valley View and 189 would go to Oak Grove.

Glenbrook’s enrollment was projected to decline from 526 in 2010-11 to 478 in five years, if it stays open.

Lawrence did not recommend closing Silverwood Elementary, even though it received the most votes from the advisory committee and was included in both of the most highly recommended school closure scenarios by the committee. He showed that Silverwood’s students could be absorbed into Mountain View, Ayers and Highlands elementary schools, but noted that County Connection buses don’t travel near Silverwood.

He projected Silverwood’s enrollment would grow from 400 to 402 in five years, if it isn’t closed.

Lawrence also showed that 17 new classrooms would need to be built to accommodate Monte Gardens and Sequoia Elementary students at other sites if those schools closed and that three classrooms would need to be constructed at Pleasant Hill Middle School to accommodate Sequoia Middle School students if that campus closed.

He estimated the district would save $100,000 by combining the small necessary high schools on one campus, while also making five classrooms available on the Concord High campus. However, he acknowledged that public transportation for small necessary high school students would be needed (since the district doesn’t bus them). Both the Wren Avenue and Holbrook neighborhoods are served by County Connection buses, he said.

He was unsure whether the district could identify additional nonpublic special education students who could be served on the closed Glenbrook site, but promised to bring that information to the board Feb. 8, when trustees expect to vote on the recommendations.

Lawrence noted that Holbrook, Wren and Glenbrook all offer the CARES after-school program on their campuses. Wren and Holbrook serve 114 students each, while Glenbrook serves 132.

The district will investigate the possibility of transferring students to CARE programs at other sites or transferring the CARE program to sites that don’t have it, he said.

He was unsure whether the district would be able to continue receiving School Improvement Grant funds for Glenbrook Middle School’s “transformation,” if the site closes. The state approved a three-year $1.7 million grant, which was to be disbursed in equal installments of $584,002 per year through 2012-13.

The funds were to be spent according to the district’s application. The district would need to amend its application and receive approval from the state in order to continue receiving funds if the school closes.

Title 1 funds, on the other hand, would follow the students, he said. None of the schools recommended receive QEIA funds.

Do you agree with Lawrence’s recommendation?

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