Starting next school year, Henderson Community Day School will only enroll seventh- and eighth-grade students.
At the Feb. 5 meeting, the Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to cut the ninth-grade class.
Dawn Vetica, Lodi Unified assistant superintendent of secondary education, said enrollment in ninth grade has been declining over the past five years.
Henderson is a choice school for struggling students. It sits on the same campus as Katnich Community Day School, which serves expelled special education students.
Normally, students remain at the community school for the rest of the school year before they has the option to transition back to their home school. Many choose to stay through eighth and ninth grade.
"Currently, not all of the eighth-grade students choose to stay at Henderson for ninth grade. They have always had the choice to stay or go to their home high school," said Vetica.
But the choice to enter a mainstream high school is no longer up to the students or their families. With ninth grade cut, students have no option but to leave Henderson.
The school currently has 40 students. There are three full-time and two half-time teachers. No teachers will be laid off as a result of the change, but some will be transferred to other schools.
At the board meeting, Vetica explained the school was originally intended for seventhand eighth-grade students, to prepare them for the high school experience.
The decision was later made to add ninth grade, but the expected enrollment numbers never came in.
"The school does offer good intervention programs for these students, but couldn't those be offered at the high schools? It's difficult to balance that need for help along with need to make sure we're spending dollars of taxpayers correctly," said board president Ralph Womack.
If the intention was to prepare students for high school, keeping them at Henderson until their sophomore year leaves them without an established peer group for the remaining three years, said Womack.
The final vote was 4-3 in favor of the cut.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.