After nearly two months of meetings, the San Bruno Park School District committee tasked with making a recommendation about school closures has officially returned the issue to the school board.
Now, the school board will take the next step in deciding what many have been dreading since the beginning of the talks: should a school be closed next year?
But the recommendation isn’t as clear-cut as closing one school or another.
Because of the gravity of the situation and because of all the emotions involved, the committee decided against making a recommendation about which school to close—a decision the district asked the committee to make. Instead, the committee suggested three options for the board to consider when making its final decision—none of which definitively named a school to be closed.
“This needs to be a ‘business decision’ and, unfortunately, we cannot take emotions into consideration,” a report stating the committee’s recommendation said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, parents continued to pepper the committee with criticism about how the school closure process has been handled so far. The school closure talks were prompted by the fact that all sixth graders in the district will be moved to Parkside Intermediate next year, as well as the district's continuing problem with declining enrollment and a lack of funding from the state.
After the committee at its last meeting that put Crestmoor Elementary at the top of the list to be considered for closure, many called the process flawed, including at least one of the committee members.
To rank the schools based on criteria set by the committee members, the committee was divided into two groups and came up with two figures that were then compiled into a total score for each school. The school with the highest score—Crestmoor—meant that it was very important to consider that school for closure.
John Marinos, one of the committee members, said Tuesday that splitting the groups into two wasn’t fair.
“The final decision (about the rankings) was biased toward Crestmoor,” said Marinos, who represented the school on the committee.
Marinos also wrote the minority opinion in the school closure report that will be given to the school board. In it, he said, the school closure process was mostly ambiguous for the committee and the school board offered little guidance for how to interpret the criteria they were given to use to determine which school should be closed.
Ultimately, the committee decided to recommend the following options:
- Consolidate two schools—namely Crestmoor and Rollingwood or Portola—so that the students’ lives and routines, including those of the transfer students at the schools, wouldn’t be disrupted as much.
- Wait a year to close a school.
- Hire a mentor to help facilitate the consolidation of two schools that could be combined.
In the minority opinion, Marinos suggested that the school board make a decision about a school closure now because waiting any longer would only cause undue stress to students, teachers and parents.
"Teachers aren't going to want to work at a site they know is closing, parents aren't going to want to enroll their children, and you can get it all tied up nicely by fall rather than prolonging the inevitable another year," he said. "Just rip the Band-Aid off!"
Skip Henderson, the president of the school board who also sat on the committee, said the board will hear the committee’s final report at its April 18 meeting. But a decision about closing a school wouldn’t be made until at least May, he said.
To make the process as open as possible going forward, Henderson said, he would like the board to hold a series of public meetings about the school closure issue to give residents more opportunities to raise their concerns.
“This is an important issue to this committee and all the schools involved,” Henderson said, “and I don’t want this to be a rash decision.”
The full committee report is attached.