Alum Rock Considers Consolidating Campuses

Kris Sanchez

Juana Morales says she never imagined she’d be an activist, but she never imagined that her childrens’ neighborhood school would close either.

Her childrens’ campus, Slonaker Elementary School, is one of two that could be consolidated as the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District seeks to close an $8 million structural deficit and declining enrollment.

“It will be hard for families that don’t drive to go to a farther school,” Morales said, adding, “What happens if there’s no room at the new school? Where will my children go to school then?”

At school dismissal time, Morales used a P.A. system to encourage parents to show up at the district’s community meeting Tuesday evening at Fischer Middle School.

Grandmother Patricia Galicia is planning to attend, she says, because losing the school could end up costing some parents their jobs.

“The school also provides a daycare so it’s easy for the parents to drop off the babies, then bring the kids over here,” Galicia said. “It’s not only affecting the kids but our community. This community needs support.”

Sending Slonaker’s 274 students and the 228 students at Rogers Elementary school to their next nearest neighborhood schools would save the district about $750,000 annually. It would also free up the facilities for the district to lease to a charter school at market rate.

Also on the table are larger class size for kindergarten through third grade, asking the community to support a parcel tax and teacher layoffs. Nearly 90 teachers got state-mandated layoff warnings last week.

Superintendent Stephen Fiss says that the district has done all it can with state funding that’s now less than $5,000 a student instead of the $6,400 per student it should be under California’s Proposition 98, which guarantees mandatory education spending. That decrease created an $48 million dollar gap between what the district spends and the revenue it gets.

“California funding is near the bottom in the nation,” Fiss said. “So everything we do at this point, because we’ve made adjustments already, will affect students .”

The superintendent must present a plan to the Santa Clara County Board of Education on April 25. While the parents rally to save their schools, they’re also trying to figure out what to say to their kids.

Kristina Ivers’ son Angel is in the first grade at Slonaker.

“I don’t know how to explain to him that they decided to close the school because there’s no funding. He’s too young to understand that so it’s hard, Ivers said.

“I don’t feel that excited because actually I like this school,” said Slonaker third grader Noemi Colon.

There are two other meetings scheduled for March 21 at Ocala Middle School and March 25 at Mathson Middle School.

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