Parents worry that Scenic school may close

Joy Hudak chose her house in the eastern Redlands so her daughter could attend Scenic Elementary.

Now, her soon-to-be third-grader may have to spend fifth-grade at another school.

Hudak and fellow members of the school’s parent-teacher organization are concerned the school will close in 2012–13. School District 51’s school board will finalize $13.6 million in cuts to the district’s 2011–12 budget on June 21, and they anticipate more cuts will be needed the next year.

In preparation, school board member Diann Rice asked district staff at a meeting Tuesday to compile a list of potential future budget cuts and present it to the board June 21. That list is likely to include what the district would save by closing Scenic or nearby Broadway Elementary.

Rice said the board discussed the possibility of closing a school with district leaders. The Redlands would be the most likely area for a closure, Rice said, because elementary enrollment is declining there.

“I won’t say it’s going to happen, but it’s certainly a possibility,” Rice said. “No decisions have been made.”

Although enrollment declined year-over-year at all three Redlands elementary schools, Wingate is not being considered for closure at this point because it has the largest population, 460 students as of October. At that time, Broadway had 245 students and Scenic had 239.

The difference between closing Broadway and closing Scenic is that if Broadway closed, Scenic would still have to be remodeled, according to District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita. That’s because Scenic has an “open” layout, a design the district has tried to move away from for safety and noise reasons.

Scenic also has more school-of-choice students than Broadway, meaning more students are coming to Scenic from outside the school’s boundaries.

“We are not in the financial shape right now to be able to afford to be anything but the most efficient we can be and use our space and resources as carefully as we can. That’s why we closed Glade Park” Community School, Rice said.

The district is defunding the 21-student Glade Park school this fall, but it may remain open as a charter school.

Rice said she doesn’t think the board will make any decisions about a possible school closing at the June 21 meeting. If the board does decide to close a school, she said, “We might make a decision sooner rather than later so kids who are starting kindergarten won’t start at a school that’s going to close.”

Scenic Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization President Jenny Hall, who first heard about the possible closure Tuesday, hopes the board doesn’t make any decisions until fall enrollment counts can better inform their decision.

“Making those budget decisions must be excruciating, but let’s give it some time,” Hall said.

Hall said the school has a close-knit group of parents, students and staff, and she expects many of them to express support for the school at the June 21 board meeting. At that meeting, DeVita said the board has the option of setting up public forums to discuss the potential closure or assembling a committee to examine the consequences of closing a school.

Directing a committee to examine a budget-reduction idea doesn’t always result in the idea being approved, DeVita said. The district assembled a committee to examine the pros and cons of a four-day school week in 2010 and decided against the idea.

Because closing another school is hypothetical, the district has not decided where students would attend school if Scenic or any other school closed.


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