"We are in worse shape than we anticipated because we realized recently that our revenue was overstated," said Diane Zimmerman, superintendent of the district. "But no decision whatsoever has been made to close a school. Our school board won't make a decision about this until it has all the information it needs.
"We are trying to find a way to run the district in the most cost-effective way that we can."
Due to state budget cuts, Zimmerman said last month that the district needed to cut $1.3 million from its budget over the next three years. Since the district's revenues won't be as large as originally anticipated, Zimmerman now estimates that $1.5 million to $1.6 million in cuts will be necessary.
If the board decides not to close a school starting next year, it could happen the following year, Zimmerman said.
Three of the five schools in the Old Adobe district —?La Tercera, Miwok and Sonoma Mountain —?each have about 400 students. Bernard Eldredge and Old Adobe are the schools being considered for closure primarily because they both have about 260 students enrolled, the lowest in the district, Zimmerman said, adding that closing a school would result in a savings of about $390,000 per school year.
"Enrollment at Bernard Eldredge has been steadily declining, and if it didn't have the (Spanish-English) Dual Immersion program, the decision on which school to consider closing would be a no-brainer," she said.
The Dual Immersion program was implemented this school year, and consists of two kindergarten classes and one first-grade class. Each class is comprised of native English-speaking and native Spanish-speaking students, and enables them to become adept at both languages and expand their global horizons as they proceed through grade levels.
If Bernard Eldredge closes, the Dual Immersion program could remain on the school grounds until the property is sold (if it is sold), or be implemented at another school, Zimmerman said.
If either school closes, new boundaries would need to be established for the remaining schools, and initially, second- through sixth-grade classes at the closing school would be kept together and placed in schools with sufficient space.
The school board is scheduled to discuss a possible school closure at its meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 11, at Sonoma Mountain Elementary School.
Zimmerman would like the board to make a decision by April whether or not to close one of the schools so that sufficient time will be available to implement changes.
Other cost-cutting measures also are being considered. The district could save up to $300,000 by creating eight furlough days for teachers and staff members next year and $150,000 annually by redistributing Tier III categorical funding, which traditionally applies to gifted and talented programs and counseling, among other things.
Many students, families, teachers and staff members would be affected if a school is closed, and some of them were among some 100 people marching in protest in the pouring rain in front of the Old Adobe district office on Monday. Another march was planned for Wednesday.
Several parents of students in Bernard Eldredge's Dual Immersion program showed up, and were upset. Most of the marchers expressed concerned about closing either Bernard Eldredge or Old Adobe.
"I think there are a lot of other ways that we can make money — such as fund-raisers," said Silvia Velazquez, the parent of a first-grade boy and second-grade girl at Bernard Eldredge.