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Save Encinal!

Submitted by on 1, January 5, 2010 – 5:50 amNo Comment

n249284719967_5833Alameda Unified’s efforts to revamp itself in the face of changing educational needs and budget crises have stirred a panic – on Facebook.

A draft version of the district’s master plan that envisioned the shuttering of a high school if efforts to pass a new parcel tax fail has led to fresh fears that Encinal High School may close. Those fears appear to have sparked the holiday-break creation of the Save Encinal High School Jets Facebook page.

Word about the page has spread, drawing more than 2,400 fans (compared, I might add, to the district’s own lightly-used master plan page, which has just 105). And many Encinal students past and present have posted comments to the site pleading for the school to remain open and asking what they can do to save it.

“What is Alameda w/out Encinal?!?” one poster wrote.

I tried to get hold of one of the site’s youthful administrators, but I think my vast technological knowledge deficit kinda crushed me there. (If only my kids were a bit older, they could help this doddering oldster with her computer.) Schools Superintendent Kirsten Vital did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

At an October 2009 School Board workshop, district leaders unveiled a host of scenarios for revamping the district’s secondary schools, including closing both high schools and building a new one and turning Encinal High into a collection of academies focused on the arts, science and technology, career and technical education and International Baccalaureate. But district leaders also discussed closing Encinal if the district’s funding shortfalls continue or worsen.

At the board’s December 8 meeting, district leaders presented a draft plan that included shuttering one high school if a new parcel tax is not passed. The proposal prompted a pair of parents to speak out against closing Encinal.

Encinal’s enrollment is 1,070 this school year and is projected to decline by more than 200 students over the next five years, a draft version of a district demographic study released in late November 2009 shows. Roughly 12 percent of the school’s students come from outside the Alameda school district, district data show.

West End parents have long expressed concerns that the school and its students get the short end compared to schools on the East End of the Island, with those concerns reaching a crescendo during budget cut discussions that preceded the Measure H parcel tax campaign.

The district anticipates generating roughly $7.33 million from its two parcel taxes for each of the next three years, or $309 per homeowner and up to $9,689 per commercial parcel. But district officials are anticipating a revenue shortfall of $16 million a year after the parcel taxes sunset, in 2012.

William Mooney, who is Encinal’s student representative on the School Board, wrote that students who want to save the school should volunteer to campaign for a new tax.

“There are lots of ‘alternatives’ to closing ehs….first and foremost is passing the parcel tax so that none of the cuts are carried out,” Mooney wrote.

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