Middle school students hold protest signs outside their campus
Aptitud students protested the potential closing of their middle school ahead of an Alum Rock Union School District board meeting. Photo courtesy of Ruby Arias.

East San Jose residents rejoiced Thursday night when a neighborhood middle school received a reprieve from an expected closure. But that celebration will be short lived as the school district anticipates putting more campuses on the chopping block. 

The Alum Rock Union School District board of trustees unanimously voted to postpone closing the middle school portion of Aptitud Community Academy at Goss, following community outcry and student protests. A lack of information and community involvement prompted the board’s decision. Board Vice President Andres Quintero said the projected $1.2 million in savings from closing the school wouldn’t be worth it if many families left the district as a result.

“We need better data,” he said. “Those surveys would’ve told us if the parents planned to take their children out. I have serious concerns the savings we’re looking at aren’t going to be realized.”


Students from Aptitud Community Academy at Goss protested removing grades 6-8 from the school on Thursday, March 14 before the Alum Rock Union School District board meeting that evening. The board unanimously voted against the partial closure. Watch for the story coming soon at SanJoseSpotlight.com. #school #sanjose #protest #localnews #southbay #siliconvalley

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While Aptitud is safe for the time being, at least five schools in the district may have to close, said Superintendent Hilaria Bauer — who was unexpectedly fired at the end of the meeting. The district is dealing with a loss of state funding and one-time pandemic-era dollars, in addition to declining enrollment.

Kolvira Chheng, assistant superintendent of business services, said with a projected $20.8 million shortfall, a consolidation of schools is overdue to avoid insolvency — and closing five schools is conservative.

“With the number of students we’re serving, realistically we should be at almost half the schools we’re operating,” he said, adding the district has lost 5,000 students since the 2015-16 school year.

Bauer blamed families moving out of the area, low birth rates and charter school competition. She planned to send out a survey districtwide to help the board determine which schools to close. The board agreed to reconvene in 60 days to create a plan before it adopts a budget in mid-June.

Noting Aptitud’s academic success, Trustee Linda Chavez favored giving the school more time to increase its enrollment. She said it would aid the district if parents convinced the teachers union to allow the district to offer full-day kindergarten classes. Bauer said 85 students were lost to Rocketship charter school because it didn’t have this option.

Bauer said she recommended moving grades 6-8 from Aptitud in the hopes of freeing classroom space to enroll more students in transitional kindergarten through first grade at the site. She said 500 students are needed to sustain an elementary school and 700 for a middle school. According to California School Dashboard, Aptitud had 422 students in 2023.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be closing schools,” she said.

Parent Norma Pimentel remains concerned about the future of Aptitud.

“They’re not telling us the school will not be closed,” she told San José Spotlight. “They’re just saying they’re postponing the closure. They want the community to have a very close relationship but… there is no way to make a relationship with somebody you don’t trust.”

Teacher Gwen Harl told the board to work harder to promote Aptitud and recruit students.

“These families deserve to be included in regular discussions… around the long-term needs and struggles our district is facing,” Harl said. “Build the unity this district so desperately needs.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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