San Jose: Panel decides two Evergreen schools will close this spring
The Evergreen School District Board of Trustees is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Carina Woudenberg.

After several weeks of discussion, an Evergreen School District committee tasked with selecting two schools to shutter before the next school year came to a decision during a meeting Wednesday.

If the school district’s Board of Trustees approves the selections at its Feb. 13 board meeting, Laurelwood and Dove Hill Elementary schools will officially close after classes end this spring, according to district leaders.

A sharp decline in enrollment across the district’s 15 elementary schools is largely to blame for the closures, school officials say. They said the district has seen a dip in 4,000 students over the last decade and anticipates an additional loss of 443 students in the 2020-21 school year. More than 300 fewer students are anticipated the following year when a third school is slated for elimination.

The selection process for the third school closure has not begun yet.

The decision to close the schools was made official in October when the board voted 4-1 to move forward with the long-discussed plans. The closures are expected to help bridge a deficit that would otherwise leap from $5.6 million to $16.6 million by 2022.

The 24-member consolidation committee, which is comprised of parents, community leaders and school employee representatives, formed in November and has met weekly to pore over data related to enrollment, demographics, programing and other various factors.

Dove Hill and Laurelwood were selected for closure in part because of low enrollment and closer proximity to other schools that can absorb the students. Currently, Dove Hill has 382 students and Laurelwood has 296.

“There’s a number of factors,”  Superintendent Emy Flores told San José Spotlight following the announcement on Wednesday. “We consider many things including walking distance and the desire of the community to go to these schools.”

After the closure, students attending Laurelwood will attend either James F. Smith, Matsumoto or Cadwallader, depending on where they live. Dove Hill students will be placed at Montgomery, James F. Smith or Katherine Smith.

On Thursday and Friday, Flores will visit staff, students and families at affected schools to answer questions and provide information about next steps. She’ll be available to students and families at Laurelwood Elementary School at 8:20 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. on Thursday. She will visit Dove Hill Elementary School during those same times on Friday.

Flores says it is not yet known whether staff at the two schools will lose their jobs as a result of the closures. The superintendent added that despite ongoing enrollment challenges, the district did not have to lay off anyone last year due to retirements and resignations.

“We hope we’ll have enough retirements so that won’t be an issue,” she said.

Human resources officials will meet with school employee unions to discuss the changes and their effect on district staff. The district will appoint a “transition team” to help with the changes.

“This is just a very difficult situation for everybody,” Flores said. “Our commitment to our families continues to be the same… We want to continue to provide the high quality programs that our community expects.”

Dove Hill and Laurelwood were singled out for potential closure three years ago when the district embarked on a similar consolidation process. Flores, who was not superintendent at the time, says a committee analyzed closing the schools, but didn’t move forward despite declining enrollment back then.

Board President Leila Welch, who previously served as a principal for several of the schools in the district, says she’s impressed with the thorough work of the committee though she understands closing the schools will be a challenge for all involved.

“As a former administrator, I’m very aware of how hard it is to make a decision that would close schools (and) impact the families and the staff,” Welch said. “It’s a real difficult thing but the board voted to move forward so that’s where we are.”

The plans for the closures will be discussed at public hearings at 6 p.m. on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 at the Quimby Oak Middle School Gymnasium. The board is expected to give final approval for the closures at its Feb. 13 meeting, which begins 6 p.m. at the district’s board room at 3188 Quimby Road in San Jose.

Contact Carina Woudenberg at carinaw86@gmail.com or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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