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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Panel May Favor School Closure, but does the School Board?

The Davis Enterprise reported last night that most of the school task force members are leaning toward closing a Davis elementary school due to declining enrollment. Valley Oak Elementary would be the prime target.

School Board members Sheila Allen, Jim Provenza, and Tim Taylor however all suggested that this would not happen for the 2007-08 school year.

Allen was quoted as saying: “the board needs to be honest with the community that a major change (like closing a school) in the 2007-08 school year is not realistic.”

Provenza added: "To close a school in the next (school) year would hurt the district.”

Tim Taylor said, “I don’t want the community to go into hysteria thinking that the board is going to jam something through on March 1.”

On Tuesday night before the Davis Democratic Club Sheila Allen was emphatic that she was against closing any school and that more over she did not believe that we should pit neighborhood against neighborhood. She strongly supported the ideal of keeping all elementary schools open.

Jim Provenza was also there the other night and while he was not as forceful on this as Sheila, I did not get the sense that he was in disagreement.

At the end of the day, I do not see three votes to close a school. It certainly will not happen in 2007-08. And I think by 2008-09, they will have figured out an alternative strategy.

On the other hand, the task force members were overwhelmingly of the opinion that enrollment had dropped and that it could not sustain the current nine school strategy.

The task force will meet again next week and the final report is expected to be available sometime before the March 1 meeting of the Davis School Board.

At the end of the day, the school district most likely will not take the route of closing a school. I think it is far more likely that they will try to find an alternative solution to prevent the closure of neighborhood schools.

One of those options would be to redraw some existing attendance boundaries for elementary schools while keeping all nine schools open. At this point, despite the task force leaning toward closing one school--probably Valley Oak--I think this alternative is more likely to be adopted by the school district.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting