Two Newark elementary schools could be closed amid budget deficit

NEWARK — After a decade of declining enrollment and amid a need to cut $6 million over the current and coming school years, the Newark school board on Thursday will consider closing two elementary schools, a move that’s triggered protests and marches in the small East Bay city.

Some parents, staff, and students accuse the school district of a lack of transparency and equity in the process. Many say they are confused and still aren’t sure how the district will help them with a transition if their school is closed.

Others blamed the Newark Unified School District’s history of financial mismanagement for the predicament facing the community. The district, meanwhile, says the move will help save $1 million.

“As a parent, I feel blindsided by the district,” Anabel Zarate, a parent of a third-grader at Graham Elementary School said Tuesday in an interview.

A school closure and consolidation committee met several times from August through October, and recommended the district board consider four elementary schools for closure: Graham, Musick, Lincoln, and Snow, with Graham and Musick selected as the top two.

District staff and a consultant hired to run the committee said in a Nov. 5 presentation to the board that the criteria considered when ranking the schools included demographics and capacity, educational services at each site, the quality and size of the facilities, and the possible impacts of moving each set of students.

But Zarate said the presentation still left her and other parents wondering how Graham ended up at the top of the list, especially when it has enough capacity to absorb all students from Snow Elementary.

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Parents weren’t notified, she said, that their schools could be on the chopping block.

“My community is predominantly Spanish speaking and none of the information has been translated. The reports from the committee are not translated and to me, that lacks transparency,” Zarate said.

She said the parent representative from Graham for the committee only attended the last meeting and the district didn’t choose an alternate candidate to fill the spot.

Superintendent Mark Triplett, who was hired earlier this year after Patrick Sanchez stepped down, did not respond to a request for an interview for this story, nor did school board president Elisa Martinez.

“It’s absolute shock and sadness,” Melissa Villo, an 18-year teacher at Graham said Tuesday in an interview.

Though she understands the budgetary needs to cut spending, she added “I firmly believe (the district) did not provide us enough info as to why our school should be part of their decision.”

Veronica Medina, the mother of a special needs student at Musick and a member of the consolidation committee said during the Nov. 5 meeting that the committee’s decision didn’t make sense to her.

“I was hoping this would be a fair process,” she said, adding that Musick should not have been in the top four schools considered for closure because it has lower maintenance needs compared to other schools, and has a robust special needs program.

“Where is the equity in this recommendation?,” Medina said.

Arlette Jacome, a graduate of Newark schools, said on Nov. 5 that a decision to close schools …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

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