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School trustees to take another, smaller, look at school realignment

City News Service

Although the San Diego Unified School District could save $5 million annually by closing or consolidating 10 schools, the Board of Education voted Tuesday night to focus the realignment only on a few schools whose students could benefit from better programs or facilities.

The board voted unanimously to refocus the school realignment/closure committee, which revised a preliminary list of campuses that could be closed or consolidated to only include schools that make the most sense in terms of providing students with better educational opportunities or facilities.

The committee would engage in discussions in communities of each impacted site and present a first reading of its recommendations Nov. 29 with a vote on those recommendations set for Dec. 13.

Through closure or realignment, we would actually improve the opportunities for students either because they’d be going to a school with more programs or more offerings or are simply in a school with a substandard facility,’' said board President Richard Barrera.

Most of the schools previously tagged for possible closure could remain open, with the exception of the Barnard Campus, which could be moved to a larger site which would enable the Mandarin immersion program growth to a Pacific Rim Academy.

Crawford High School’s four academies could be merged into a comprehensive school, San Diego High Communications could merge with San Diego High Science and Technology and Pacific Beach Middle School programs could be merged into Mission Bay High School.

The Lincoln cluster’s kindergarten through sixth grade schools would only offer up to fifth grade and elementary attendance boundaries could be reconfigured.

Several parents, teachers and students spoke out at the meeting against the potential closures.

The district must consider all options, including school closures, transportation cuts and staff reductions to close the budget gap, projected to be between $60 and $118 million for 2012-13, and ward off insolvency, according to Superintendent Bill Kowba.

Whether the problem is $40 million, $60 million or $100 million, I’m not sure we can come up with one single solution,’' Kowba told the board.We are going to have to look at some collaborative sacrifices.’'

Insolvency could occur in the absence of a balanced strategy for the 2012-13 school year and beyond, as mid-year cuts, triggered at state level, of about $30 million could push the district over the edge, Kowba said.

The district can avoid insolvency with prudent mid-year reductions with all budget options on the table, pending analysis and consensus, without losing focus of the needs of the students, parents, staff, the communities, as well as the financial market, Kowba said.

Some budget relief may come from the state if the governor includes a November 2012 ballot measure for new revenue, Kowba said. However, if a ballot measure fails more cuts could be triggered.

The board also requested a feasibility study, to be completed before the end of the year, on a potential 2012 capital facilities bond measure.