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Alameda Board to Ponder School Closings

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Budget gaps prompting possible shuttering of both middle schools

Alameda's Board of Education on Tuesday will begin work on a plan to close schools over the next two years in order to save money. The proposals under preliminary consideration on Tuesday also include bigger classes in kindergarten through third grade and reconfigured grade levels for the district's schools.

Staff proposals for the 2011-2012 school year include closing both of the district's middle schools and spreading students out across the district's other schools, and the district could also consider shuttering Washington and Paden elementary schools. The district's elementary schools could add sixth grade, and its high schools could be reconfigured with students from a variety of different grade levels. Options include putting grades 7-12 in each of the district's two high schools or splitting the schools so one houses students in grades 6-8 and the other, grades 9-12.

The half-dozen proposals also consider raising class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to 32 students per teacher.

Proposals for 2012-13 would include closing Edison, Otis, Bay Farm, Franklin and Lum schools, plus Washington and Paden if they haven't been closed already. The district could then maintain elementary school services at Ruby Bridges, Amelia Earhart and Henry Haight schools and at the buildings that once housed Wood and Lincoln middle schools.

Separately, the board will consider options for the Alameda Science and Technology Institute high school and Island High School that include increasing enrollment at ASTI and spreading out the grade levels at Woodstock Child Development Center and the College of Alameda and restricting Island's enrollment to Alameda residents and housing it at Woodstock.

This year, the district has 4,279 elementary school students, 1,431 middle schoolers and 3,126 high school students, district numbers to be presented Tuesday show.

The district would save $1.1 million if it closed a high school, $600,000 for closing a middle school and around $300,000 for closing an elementary school. Increasing class sizes would save the district $1.1 million.

Still, district staff said that closures still won't be enough to cover the $4 million to $5 million they expect to cut next year and $7 million to $8 million they anticipate they will need to cut in 2012-13, and they said further cuts would be needed. Over two years, the closure and consolidation scenarios would save an estimated $3.6 million to $4.2 million.

The district has scheduled two meetings to talk to the public about the proposed school closures. The meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. September 30 at Lincoln Middle School and 6:30 p.m. October 21 at Ruby Bridges Elementary School.

The school board is slated to get final closure recommendations at its November 23 meeting, and is expected to make a decision on closures and consolidations on December 14.

Separately, the district will be working to put another parcel tax on the ballot, in part to head off the closures and consolidations district leaders are now planning for. Public hearings on a fresh parcel tax are scheduled for 6 p.m. September 21 at Kofman Auditorium and 6 p.m. October 14 at Earhart Elementary. The board is slated to get a final recommendation on a tax for a March ballot on November 9 and make a decision about whether to go forward and with what on November 23.

Measure E, a tax that would have replaced the district's two existing parcel taxes and doubled the amount the district collects, failed in June by fewer than 300 votes. The district's existing Measures A and H taxes, which garner $7 million a year, lapse in 2012.

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