For the second time in as many years, Clements Elementary School parents have been told the rural school will likely close to save money.
The Lodi Unified School District board told staff Tuesday to move forward with the closure. A community input meeting will be held before the issue returns to the board for a vote next month, according to Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer.
The small school currently houses approximately 80 kindergartners and first-graders. They will be moved to Lockeford Elementary School where many of their siblings already attend. The move will save close to $93,000 in the 2010-11 school year, according to the school board.
Unlike last year, trustee Bonnie Cassel said parents have indicated to her that they would be just as happy to have their students at one school. She represents both Lockeford and Clements.
"I did not hear from any parents that are upset about it closing," she said. "I'm still waiting for the community meeting."
Parents must receive notice three months before the school is closed, Nichols-Washer said.
Other consolidation options discussed Tuesday included:
- Closing Tokay Colony Elementary and moving its 100 students to Victor Elementary, a cost savings of $90,111.
- Researching how much could be saved by closing Henderson Community Day School. The success of the alternative program ultimately outweighed the half-million dollar figure.
- Closing the 259-student Needham Elementary and moving students to Heritage Elementary and Washington Elementary, a cost savings of $308,295. That was quickly dismissed by trustees when they were told there would be state-imposed fines due to the construction currently underway.
Tokay Colony parent Nancy Davis is happy her student's school was spared — for now.
"They placed in the balance the cost to the community that you can't evaluate on paper. I appreciate their careful consideration of the big picture," she said Wednesday.
"I know the board is faced with incredibly difficult decisions to reduce the budget. There are no easy answers to this crisis."
Last year, the district started looking at consolidating schools with less than 250 students for budgetary reasons.
In February 2009, the board voted to close Turner Elementary at an estimated annual savings of $215,000, a portion of which went to treating on-campus well water. Most of its students now attend Lakewood.
Trustees, however, spared closing Clements after dozens and parents and students rallied hard against it.
Parent Gary Reiff provided what trustee Ken Davis termed a "compelling argument" comparing the cost to move to actual savings.
Reiff went one step further when he held up a check from the Clements-Lockeford Parent Teacher Association to cover the shortfall. "If you leave our school alone, we have a $4,000 check for you. I actually have it right here," he said at the time.
The campus on Highway 88 has been a part of the community for more than 100 years, and many of its students have parents who attended it. The current school was built 20 years ago on the same site as the original 1879 two-story school building, and before that the town had a different school.
District bus service: What's next?Also on Tuesday, trustees gave staff direction to continue looking into transportation changes.
Those could include charging students to ride buses, reducing current kindergarten service to one way only and creating route changes through a hub system. Instead of individual stops, students would be picked up at a centralized location set by the district.
Officials are expected to also begin enforcing district policy on walking distances which will eliminate some bus stops.
For elementary schools, those living within 1 1/2 miles will be forced to walk to school, while the distance is 2 1/2 miles for middle schoolers and 3 1/2 miles for high school students.
The changes would save approximately $2 million, but an estimated 25 employees could lose their jobs. A board decision is likely next month.