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School board okays closure plan

Submitted by on 1, December 15, 2010 – 12:02 amNo Comment

Retired Judge Rochard Bartalini swears in Margie Sherratt as an Alameda Board of Education trustee Tuesday night.

Alameda’s Board of Education approved a plan to close and consolidate district schools if voters don’t approve a parcel tax and additional money isn’t found.

Trustee Trish Hererra Spencer cast the lone vote against the plan, saying she believed it offered unequal educational options for students on the East End and West End of the Island. But Board President Ron Mooney said he disagrees.

“It’s different. That doesn’t mean it’s inherently inequitable,” Mooney said.

New trustee Margie Sherratt said she thinks that if the Measure A parcel tax being offered to voters in March 2011 fails – something she doesn’t expect to happen – the board will be taking a fresh look at its options. Meanwhile, if the tax does pass, the closure plan goes away, Superintendent Kirsten Vital said.

The plan would have the district shuttering Wood Middle School and serving West End students in grades 7-12 at Encinal High School in 2011-2012, while reconfiguring all of its elementary schools to serve students in kindergarten through sixth grade. It would also increase K-3 class sizes and reduce the middle school day to six periods. All told, the changes would save the district about $2.5 million.

The following year, the district would close Washington, Franklin and Otis elementary schools and reconfigure Amelia Earhart and Bay Farm elementary schools and Lincoln Middle School to serve kindergartners through eighth graders, for an additional savings of $915,000.

Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said that in January and February, district staff will begin to prepare layoff warning notices they are required to send by March 15 to teachers and district staffers who could face a layoff. Parents will also receive letters alerting them to the possible closures, McPhetridge said.

He staff at Encinal High School and Wood Middle School have also been meeting to work out school schedules for next year in the event Wood is closed and students from that school go to Encinal instead, and the district’s facilities staff has been working on implementation plans.

If the tax fails, he said, new district boundary maps will be created between March and June, as part of the ongoing consolidation work.

The board also okayed a budget report final list of budget reductions for the next two years. The report and the cuts are based on conservative revenue estimates and a future without a new parcel tax.

In addition to school closures and class size increases, the list of potential cuts includes salary cuts for teachers and district staff; elimination of elementary school music, media center and physical education; and elimination of adult school, among other cuts.

Hererra Spencer voted against the cut list, saying it focused too heavily on cuts to secondary education.

The budget didn’t include a $2.3 million bump the state has said it will give Alameda Unified for general educational expenses because district officials fear the money could be yanked away, Chief Business Offficer Robert Shemwell said. He said the state is facing a budget deficit over the next two years of $25 billion or more.

Shemwell also offered a list of cuts that could be made even if a parcel tax does pass, depending on the state’s funding decisions over the years to come. That list includes elimination of middle schools’ seven-period day, increased high school class sizes and reduction of high school graduation requirements, for a savings of $2.95 million.

Meanwhile, retired Judge Richard Bartalini swore in Sherratt and Mike McMahon for their coming four-year terms on the board. “I am ready to serve. I’m ready to lead. And I’m ready to listen to all the citizens of Alameda,” Sherratt said.

Also, a trio of parents asked the board to consider a 7-12 school at Encinal, regardless of whether a parcel tax passes in order to provide more options to West End families. PTA Council president Christine Strena said that organization has posted a petition on its website to gauge interest in pursuing the plan.

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