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Mt. Diablo district superintendent’s latest school closure presentation

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 at 1:41 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

Since the Mt. Diablo school district still hasn’t posted Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s PowerPoint presentation from Tuesday night online, I’ll recap it here for you [bracketed notes were added by me]:

“Items to be addressed:
- Where would Westwood students go?
- Where would the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Significantly Handicapped programs at Westwood be housed?
- Where would the Silverwood program for students with Autism be housed?
- What are our costs for the Necessary Small High Schools (NSHS)?
- Is there a way to consolidate the NHSH in order to better meet student needs and save money?
- Can we close Willow Creek and sell the property to help with the $1.5 million ongoing reduction to the general fund?

WHERE WOULD WESTWOOD STUDENTS GO?
Currently, there are 397 students at Westwood.
219 live in the Westwood attendance area.
21 students attend the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program (none of these students live in the Westwood attendance area and nine live out of district)
17 students attend the Severely Handicapped (SH) program (one student lives in the attendance area)

[RECOMMENDATION IF WESTWOOD IS CLOSED]:
- Move the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and SH programs to Wren Avenue Elementary School, which is 1.5 miles from El Dorado MS and Concord HS
- The remainder of the current students could either attend Mountain View, return to their home school, or for the portion of the Westwood attendance area west of Concord HS and north of Concord Boulevard, they could attend Monte Gardens
- The new Mountain View attendance area would have 501 elementary students in it. Therefore, the students currently attending Westwood and Mountain View could remain, but new transfer students would not be accepted. If every student went from Westwood to Mountain View, the school would have 772 next year and decrease in enrollment over the next several years. (Powerpoint includes map of Westwood Elementary School Planning Areas.)

CONCERNS:
- Traffic: Spoke with Concord City Manager Dan Keen about traffic concerns and he feels that traffic issues can be mitigated. Once a decision is made we can sit down with the Concord city team and discuss start and end times for Concord HS and El Dorado MS. Generally, the start time is a bigger concern because of the normal morning commute traffic.

CONCERNS [CEQA]:
- CEQA: In general, districts can apply for a formal notice of exemption from CEQA due to school closures. Unless the closure increases capacity by more than 25 percent or 10 classrooms, whichever is less.
- Currrently, El Dorado has 872 students and the capacity for over 1,200 students and Westwood has a capacity of 492. So, the combined capacity would be close to 1,700 students. If every student moved over from Glenbrook (520) there would be 1,392. Therefore, we would not need to add any new buildings and would not increase capacity by 25 percent.

CONCERNS [GANGS]:
- Gangs: Spoke with both Glenbrook and El Dorado principals, and Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger. Police Chief Swanger also spoke with his gang unit leader prior to providing me with input. They all feel that the campus would be safe and concerns can be addressed. Police Chief Swanger offered to have his team meet with the school administration team to address any specific concerns.

SILVERWOOD
- Program for students with Autism would be moved to Wren Avenue Elementary.

NECESSARY SMALL HIGH SCHOOLS:
Currently, the following programs are part of our alternative education program:
- Olympic (Concord): 335 students (must be age 16)
- Crossroads (Concord): 61 students [pregnant or mothers]
- Gateway (Bay Point): 46 students (must be age 16)
- Nueva Vista (Concord): 45 students (must be age 16)
- Summit (Concord): 41 students (must be age 16)
- TLC (Concord): 23 students (must be age 14) 8th gr [retained]
- Prospect (Pleasant Hill): 46 students (must be age 16)
- Horizons/CIS: 119 students (grades 9-12) [independent study]
- Home Study: 54 students (K-12)
- Diablo Day Community School: 37 students [expelled]

CAN WE CONSOLIDATE [NSHS] PROGRAMS TO SAVE FUNDING?
- We could combine some of the continuation high school programs (Nueva Vista/Summit, Gateway, Prospect, Olympic) on Olympic campus. [Crossroads is already at Olympic]
- TLC is a program for 8x [post-8th-graders who aren't promoted to ninth grade]. Instead of being retained these students are placed in the TLC program.
- Diablo Community Day School is a necessary program because the county’s Golden Gate program does not have capacity to service all of our students, and it does not have the special education programs to serve our students with IEPs. Students with IEPs that were not served in the Golden Gate program would have NPS placement which are much more costly.

CLOSING WILLOW CREEK [Center in Concord]:
- Diablo Community Day School is at this facility and by law a Community Day School has to be on a separate location because it serves students who have been expelled from the district. We would need to move the program to another closed school.
- The only staff member that comes out of the general fund would be the custodian which would generate an approximate $50,000 savings.
- Energy costs are approximately $45,000
- Ongoing savings from Willow Creek would be approximately $95,000
- One-time savings from Willow Creek would be the value of the property which can be used for any one-time expenditure (ie. textbooks, computers, buses, etc.)”

[END OF POWERPOINT PRESENTATION]

After the board’s retreat on Sunday, in which the facilitator stressed the importance of providing open, transparent information to the public, it’s surprising this wasn’t posted online before the meeting. Lawrence told me he worked on it up until just before the meeting and it wasn’t posted because his executive assistant wasn’t there.

It’s also surprising that Lawrence didn’t distribute copies of the presentation to School Closure Advisory Committee members, even though they were being asked to weigh in on the suggestion to close Westwood Elementary and move all Glenbrook students to El Dorado.

Although trustees haven’t voted to remove Wren Avenue Elementary from the list of schools being considered for closure, they don’t appear to be looking at that campus, according to this presentation.

FEB. 17 UPDATE: The superintendent’s PowerPoint is now online at http://bit.ly/gDGy76.

Do you think the board should close Westwood or Silverwood elementary, look at closing the Willow Creek Center or consolidating Small Necessary High Schools?

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  • Not Concord

    Don’t close Westwood. Consolidate SNHS, and Olympic site is better than moving to Holbrook. Close Willow Creek if it saves money. Do NOT spend Measure C at sites being closed or might be closed.

    Can’t tell where Measure C funds are being spent. Checked online for Measure C “Technology Improvements” which says “various sites” and “click here for map” and gives a list of schools including Holbrook and Glenbrook. Need better information!

    Save every penny for the classrooms! Word is teacher negotiations today may give students a 5-day vacation in May or June. Education is going the wrong direction when they cut school days!

  • Mary Silva

    NO! West wood is a California Distinguished School with a deaf education component that has been in place since 1971. Also they keep saying that the whole school would be moved together but this is NOT TRUE. They want to split the school and move the 25 deaf kids to another site. Some the hearing impaired kids are mainstreamed part or whole day. What would become of these kids?

    Closing West Wood would:
    * Cause major traffic problems
    * Lower property values
    * Cause an unmanageable size Jr High
    * Cause a hardship on the kids from Glen Brook as it is too far to walk to West Wood and taking mass transit would cost $100 per month and take an hour each way
    * The school would lose attendance money, if the student is not checked in by 9am the state doesn’t give the school attendance money. If these kids are taking mass transit (many of them would have to transfer) their arrival times will vary
    * Cut off the deaf kids from their mentors at Concord High
    * Cost the school district money in retrofits to West Wood as it is not set up for Junior High sized kids
    * Any school that takes the deaf kids needs to have carpeted classrooms, acoustical tiles on the ceiling, FM systems (these items are already in place at West Wood
    * Neighborhood vandalism, graffiti and break-ins would increase. Grade school kids don’t get into that kind of trouble.

    The list goes on but I think you get the point that closing West Wood is a HORRIBLE idea.

    Save the future of North Concord.
    SAVE WEST WOOD!!!

  • Karen McMahon

    The Board should go back to the teacher’s union and ask them to find $3m in their wage/benefit package – not affecting current salary/benefit levels – but ask that the teachers hold off on taking SALARY INCREASES and BENEFIT INCREASES planned for the coming 2 year period. At the end of the 2 year period, the Board can come up with some long term plans for necessary changes, and the salary increases can resume. The teachers love their kids and their schools. I know the union MEMBERSHIP would be willing to consider this avenue – is the Board willing to ask the UNION LEADERSHIP what they can do to help in the face of a budget crisis?

  • Theresa Harrington

    In the short term, the teachers’ union appears willing to take cuts. The board hasn’t approved a new agreement yet, but teachers are planning a “blue rally” before Tuesday’s meeting. Furlough days and other concessions are under discussion.

  • Wait a Minute

    Talk about a potential game changer on closing schools.

    I’ll tell you what, if the Federal Office of Civil Rights investigates the MDUSD because of parent(s) complaints (as is reported that at least one Glenbrook parent is requesting) that they are targeting low income areas for school closures, Lawrence, Eberhart and the others will wish they only had to deal with a local Grand Jury inquiry by the time its all over.

    When OCR comes in they REALLY investigate and they have the resources to do so!
    They also tend to stay for years sometimes depending on the severity of the problems.

    This could be the reason for this attempt to stop at only 2 schools