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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Task Force Recommends Valley Oak Closure

The Best Use of Schools Advisory Task Force has voted by a 6-1 margin to recommend the closure of Valley Oak Elementary. A full report will be drafted and presented to the Davis School Board at the March 1, 2007 meeting.

The vote came amid suggests by several of the board members that they would not act on these recommendations until late March and moreover would be unlikely to make changes for the 2007-08 school year.

In recent weeks, Board Member Sheila Allen made strong statements that she was opposed to closing any school and vowed to keep all nine elementary schools open.
Allen said last week: “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.”
Moreover on February 13, 2007 she told Davis Democratic Club members that she was emphatically opposed to closing any school and she did not believe that we should pit neighborhood against neighborhood.

Other members have suggested they will wait to read the report before making any decisions however both Jim Provenza and Tim Taylor last week strongly indicated that closing a school next year would not be a good idea at this late date.

Baki Tezcan, one of the members of a group seeking to keep all nine schools open points out to us in a written statement that in 1999, using the projection of 4,450 kids for 2006-07, the board approved the construction of Montgomery and Korematsu Elementary schools. 4,450 kids were enough to justify nine elementary schools in 1999.
"If the School Board decides to close Valley Oak, the property owners in Davis may well question why they are paying for Measure K, which passed on May 23, 2000, and supported the construction of Montgomery and Korematsu. If the Board in 2007 decides that 4,378 K-6 students may be accommodated in 8 elementary schools, then everyone will wonder why the Board told them that we needed 9 schools seven years ago with projected enrollments for 4,450 K-6 students in 2006-07."
He concluded:
"In short: a projection of 4,450 students was deemed good enough to run 9 schools, but an actual number of 4,378 students is now regarded as not good enough to keep them open. If anything is double standard, that is it!"
Task Force Chairman Kirk Trost is quoted in the Davis Enterprise:
“Unless there's approval of some major new development, we're not going to see a substantial number of (new) students,” said task force chairman Kirk Trost, noting city government has put the proposed 600-home Cannery Park development on hold."
The Cannery Park development may be on hold, but the current growth plan by the city is still 1.25% per year. In order to accomplish that, they would have to have a project development the size of Cannery Park every two years, the size of Wild House every three years, or the size of Mace Ranch every seven years. That would suggest that within seven years, if the council majority is maintained, there would be the need for at least one additional school.

In the shorter term, I think there are many very good reasons to keep all nine schools open. I also think this is a good strategy to avoid pitting neighborhood against neighborhood. The March 1, 2007 School Board meeting should be an interesting one to follow.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting