Trustees vote to close four Redwood City schools

Trustees vote to close four Redwood City schools

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By Bill Shilstone

Moving to “right-size” the Redwood City School District in the face of declining enrollment, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday night to close four schools next year to help close a $4 million budget deficit for 2019-20.

The action came after a final outpouring of emotion, some of it from trustees, at a four-hour meeting at Sequoia High School attended by about 600 members of the school community.

Supt. John Baker said he and his administrative team on Monday will begin the transition for the 1,900 students who will have to change schools.

Choking back tears, Trustee Dennis McBride called on the families of 1,100 students who have fled to charter schools to return to the district. Each child brings about $10,000 to the district under the state funding formula.

The final plan calls for the closing of four campuses: Fair Oaks (current enrollment 221), Hawes (301), Orion (270) and Adelante (464). Orion’s parent participation program will move to the John Gill campus and Adelante’s Spanish Immersion program will move to Selby Lane. Selby Lane’s Spanish Immersion program will merge with Adelante’s; the other 460 Selby Lane students will move. At John Gill, 200 students will have a choice of enrolling in the Orion program or moving to another school.

Displaced students from Fair Oaks, Hawes, John Gill and Selby Lane will be given priority to choose and attend any school. Baker said groups of teachers or students who want to move as a group will be accommodated, in consultation with the district teachers’ union.

“We’re going to come to the schools and ask each parent where they want to go,” Baker said. The district also will provide counseling and emotional support to students and teachers who are moving and will work with community partners to provide transportation to the affected students.

The district faces a $10 million budget shortfall in the next three years because of steeply declining enrollment caused by families moving away or choosing charter or private schools. Current district enrollment is 7,600, about half the combined capacity of the 16 schools.

The board’s actions are designed to deal with the cost inefficiency of near-empty campuses and to cut just over $4 million for the 2018-19 school year by the closings — Adelante ($909,000), Fair Oaks ($568,000), Hawes ($561,000) and Orion ($723,000); staff reductions of $700,000; and obtaining outside funding for summer school $673,757. By Dec. 15, the district must present the pared-down budget for certification by the San Mateo County Office of Education, which monitors school district solvency.

Speakers from Fair Oaks, Hawes and Selby Lane asked the board to delay the decision and find an alternative to closing schools. They argued that the burden of the closings falls most heavily on schools with high percentages of low-income students.

Baker presented new school-by-school ethnic balance and socio-economic figures that he said show a reasonable mix in a district with about 80 percent non-white students. They will be posted on the district website.

Hawes parents called for the board to close Clifford instead, arguing that its families have the resources to deal with moving to a new school whereas Hawes families do not. At Clifford, 36 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price meals; at Hawes, the percentage is 65. “A lot of us are single Latino mothers struggling to make ends meet,” said one Selby Lane parent.

Several parents said the district will lose more money than it saves because students will leave the district rather than accept the change.

“This is hard for me,” Baker said. “I grew up here in my career.” He has worked in the district for 30 years, first as a kindergarten teacher at Garfield. “I wish that it were an option not to close schools, but we can’t run in the red. We must right-size our district. If we don’t, the county and state will do it for us.”

Board President Maria Diaz-Slocum, who grew up in Redwood City and has been a district parent, said, “My mother was a single parent, so I understand that we are impacting family lives and adding stress, and I apologize. We have to keep going.”

She said criticism that the district is mismanaging its money is unwarranted. “If students aren’t here, we won’t have money,” she said.

Trustee Alisa MacAvoy noted that California is 41st among states in per-pupil funding and urged parents to write to their legislators and sign the Full land Fair Funding for California Schools petition. “I’ve talked to a lot of colleagues around the state who are in the same boat,” she said.

She said she looks forward to the transition. “Everybody loves their school. Every student loves the teacher. It will be the same at new schools, and we will help.”

Trustee Janet Lawson thanked the Taft parent who offered a welcome to Fair Oaks students, and Redwood City Teachers Association President Kevin Sugar told the affected families “We’re with you,” and that teachers would work to “help ease the pain.”

Hilary Paulson, who is retiring from the board and was attending her final meeting, said the district would not sell any of its sites and that “We have had expert advice on how to do this.”

“It’s sad for Hilary that we don’t get to celebrate all her contributions,” Diaz-Slocum said.

SCHOOL-BY-SCHOOL BREAKDOWN OF REORGANIZATION PLAN

Here is how the Redwood City School District reorganization will affect each of the district’s 16 schools, beginning next school year.

Fair Oaks: School closes and students move to nearby Taft or have priority in transfer to any other school in the district.

Taft: Absorbs students from Fair Oaks. The district will go ahead with the scheduled two-year Measure T modernization on the Taft campus, at the same time working with the community to develop an “innovative, academically rigorous program serving a culturally and socioeconomically diverse population.”

Orion: The parent-participation program, one of the Schools of Choice magnets that draw students from throughout the district, moves to John Gill, sharing the site with the Mandarin Immersion program. The Allerton Street campus closes. Orion families who choose not to move with the parent-participation program have the option to attend their neighborhood school.

John Gill: Ceases to become a neighborhood school. Current students have first priority to stay as part of the Orion parent-participation program or to move to another school.

Adelante: Campus on Granger Way closes, and its Spanish Immersion program, another of the district magnets, moves to Selby Lane in Atherton to join 250 Spanish Immersion program students there. Adelante families who choose not to move have the option to attend their neighborhood school.

Selby Lane: 460 students not in the immersion program have priority in moving to other schools. The preschool and transitional kindergarten programs at Selby Lane become Spanish Immersion.

Hawes: School closes and students move to nearby Roosevelt, Henry Ford or Orion (John Gill) or have priority to other schools.

Roosevelt, Garfield, Hoover, Kennedy, Clifford, Roy Cloud, McKinley Institute of Technology, North Star Academy and Henry Ford: Not affected except to absorb displaced students from Fair Oaks, Hawes, John Gill and Selby Lane, who will have priority to choose and attend any school in the district.

No determination has been made on what will happen to the closed-school properties.

The district office will close and move to a vacated school sometime in 2020,  bringing in a potential revenue of $1.6 million a year. Other projects for the near future are a review of the K-8 vs. K-5/6-8 configuration and a study of the role of North Star Academy, the district’s accelerated-learning choice.

The proposals are designed in part to take advantage of the most popular choice programs, including Roosevelt’s project-based learning, by giving them room to expand and possibly attracting more students.

All the proposals, Supt. John Baker said, “should promote racially and socioeconomically balanced schools and not further segregate our students.” The district has a marked east side-west side imbalance, and most of the district’s enrollment decline is happening on the east side.

REDWOOD CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT DEMOGRAPHICS

SCHOOL              CAPACITY*        ENROLLMENT *     NON-WHITE PERCENTAGE**

Kennedy (6-8)     1,680               706                             82

Hoover (K-8)        1,470               681                             98

Selby Lane (K-8)   1,290               740                            95

Clifford (K-8)         1,110               558                            55

Roosevelt (K-8)     1,110               581                            80

Taft (K-5)                1,080               331                            98

Garfield (K-8)         1,020               570                            98

Roy Cloud (K-8)         990               718                            37

Fair Oaks (K-5)           960               221                            97

Henry Ford (K-5)        780               377                           70

McKinley IT (6-8)        720               408                           96

John Gill (K-5)              660               288                           90

North Star (3-8)           630               536                           51

Hawes (K-5)                  570               301                           98

Adelante (K-5)              550               464                           76

Orion (K-5)                    270                211                          53

Total                          14,890            7,691                          80

*Redwood City School District figures from early fall 2018

**State Dept. of Education figures for 2017-18

Updated ethnic and socioeconomic makeup figures are soon to be posted on the district website.

Photos courtesy of the Redwood City School District

 

18 Comments

  1. I certainly empathize with the Board as they have made these very difficult choices. Thanks Bill for a thorough summary, so we can remember who goes where! I do look forward to the discussions about the future of North Star and possible reconsideration of the K-8 vs. K-5/6-8 configuration. Thanks for keeping us up to date.

  2. Right In the middle of Silicon Valley, with so much development, high taxes , school impact fees on construction projects, to close 4 schools at same time , bigger school means more traffic to certain locations, not a better education, less control on our children

  3. I am with the feelings found because it is affected and they did not take us into account because the school that assists my daughters is the one that has the most students should look for alternatives to help all

  4. This is very disappointing. I was told by one of the board meeting members, that she would contact me directly to let me know if transportation will be provided or not, now that we are force to move to a school OF THEIR CHOICE!!!

  5. The headline and picture in this article are misleading and unfortunate. Two of the districts top programs – Adelante and Orion – are not closing but they are moving locations. We don’t need any incorrect publicity that these programs are closing when they are draws for attendance in the district.

  6. “We’re going to come to the schools and ask each parent where they want to go,” Baker said.

    Choking back tears, Trustee Dennis McBride called on the families of 1,100 students who have fled to charter schools to return to the district. Each child brings about $10,000 to the district under the state funding formula.

    Maybe the two of them can talk to all of these parents personally and recruit back our kids, and support each of these displaced children and their families!!

    I know this decision (any decision for this budget problem was tough anyway you went with it)! So let’s keep (and get those back) those children who are displaced by closures and charters!

  7. I know how necessary and how difficult this decision was for the Board. I’m glad they revisited the last plan to not close both Bay schools (Fair Oaks and Taft).

    Now…they need to come up with a plan to make charter schools passe and obsolete.

  8. I’m so so disappointed in the decision by the board. Most of the schools affected are the minority, low-income students. It’s disappointing that very real concerns were bought up by parents of the community, only to be dismissed by the district. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t close a school located in a higher-income area since those folks have the agency to travel to school.

    Further, Trustee McBride asking children to leave the charter school system is certainly a sign that people are losing trust in RCSD. Folks are moving to these privatized institutions because they feel they aren’t receiving that support in the public schools. A lot of these charter schools students are majority racial minority students, and that should say something about the respect and attention these folks are given in the district. Additionally, higher-income, white families, who these systems were ultimately built for, are able to afford private schools and therefore take their students out of the district. Why doesn’t McBride focus his energy on those folks too?

    RCSD’s restructuring has been a long-time coming. As a minority student who lived in the city my entire life, I’ve just been disappointed with the educational structures in place.

  9. As a parent in the district, it would have been nice to have been informed about this process before the decision was finalized. It would be nice if the school board had the foresight to plan further ahead for how to address their budget problems rather than wait until the nth hour. It would be nice to see more effort put into how to improve the schools to prevent such a crisis in the first place. Additionally, it would be nice if the negative impact of bigger schools–on neighborhood traffic, class size, and overall educational experience–were taken into account. I expect enrollments will hemorrhage much faster given the many downsides of both the decision to close schools and the utter lack of communication with parents surrounding the decision. I say this with much sadness as a firm believer in public education and the child of public school teachers, but being a parent in this district has been such an unnecessarily stressful and disheartening process, I expect I will be joining the legion of parents seeking private alternatives. I’ve been staying in the district because of North Star, but with rumors of it closing in the future as well, I’m out.

  10. This city is getting so overpopulated and now they want to crowd all these kids into overcrowded classrooms so no one will get the help they need from overworked teachers. Again I can’t wait to leave this city

  11. Why did students leave those schools to go to private and charter schools in the first place?
    Are they really going to allow that many displaced non-white students to go to Roy Cloud? I’ll believe it when I see a 50/50 ratio.

  12. No way fair oaks only has 221 non whites. Their lying to you. They passed all the kids 2013 at Wshs because of state funding. They just want money (like anybody else). All my friends are of different nationalities and it break my heart to see all of this separation and schools that will become over crowded. #gentrification

  13. So much money to rebuild redwood city and have it overpopulated but no money for schools that have been open for years but in 2018 redwood city cant keep its schools open. Adding more students to a classroom is obviously the answer.

  14. Lately, the District has been slowly but surely ratcheting up the ratio numbers of students-per-teacher. If this continues, we will be back in the 80s again, fighting to bring down the student/teacher ratios to manageable levels. This would merely exacerbate the problems caused by mass relocations.

  15. Math was never my best subject but if Redwood City School District figures from early fall 2018 state that they currently have capacity for 14,890 but only have 7,691 enrolled, I am wondering how we are not talking about the bigger problem? Less than 52% of public school space is being used to educate students! This is clearly not a problem caused by the 1,000+ families of students who have chosen a charter school education. As math often does, the problem is revealed in the number of in-district students (or lack there of). Why are we not hearing about how many students are enrolled in private schools? All the variables are worthy of public discussion. Right-sizing the district means minimizing the facilities and administrative costs for empty classrooms in underutilize schools NOT blaming and shaming parents who exercise choice in public education or otherwise.

  16. Total B.S that RWC keeps building expensive high rise apartments & give 2 city officials raises when schools are closing & affecting 100’s if students & families! How could the board to this to us?! They could at least slowly move kids around so that the incoming students don’t overcrowd all at once! RWC used to be beautiful & family oriented but that is all in the sewer now. Thanks RCSD for poor mismanagement on YOUR part that has affected us!

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