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Concerned parents: Saugus officials moving too fast

Posted: January 15, 2010 7:26 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2010 4:55 a.m.
The editorial “No one said this would be easy,” (Jan. 10) is correct that the decision to close a school should not be easy.

However, as parents of Bouquet Canyon Elementary School students, the decision by Saugus Union School District officials to recommend closing Bouquet Canyon has seemed all too easy.

First, district officials have made the decision to recommend closing Bouquet Canyon at what seems to be warp speed. The final board vote is set for Jan. 26, seven weeks after the first potential closure notification was presented.

While we are aware the district must submit an interim budget report for positive certification on March 15, the timeline for this decision has not afforded adequate participation by members of the Bouquet Canyon community.

The California Department of Education guidelines for school closure call for the creation of a 7/11 committee to participate in fashioning any closure proposal. The district has supplanted this process with two community meetings at Bouquet Canyon.

While we appreciate the opportunity to share our concerns with district officials, sharing concerns is not equivalent to participating in shaping the closure proposal.

The decision to close a school has such widespread, far-reaching effects that great care must be taken in affording those most affected the opportunity for full participation.

It is perhaps this rush to a decision and lack of participation that have led to a profound information disconnect between district officials and parents.

District officials have offered a cost-savings estimate of approximately $600,000 associated with closing Bouquet Canyon.

Upon close inspection this estimate does not appear accurate. For example, the estimate includes nearly $90,000 in utility savings.

These savings will not materialize, as the district will be opening West Creek Elementary next fall.

Clearly, operating West Creek Elementary will eliminate any utility savings associated with closing Bouquet Canyon.

In fact, the district plans on using the closed Bouquet Canyon campus at reduced utilization for non-general education purposes.

Therefore, the district will actually have increased utility costs next fall.

The cost-savings estimate also includes savings from the elimination of campus supervisors and custodial staff at Bouquet Canyon.

However, the district will need to staff West Creek and service the 900 students who are displaced with the closures of Bouquet Canyon and Emblem Elementary School. Therefore, these savings will also not materialize.

A cursory examination of the cost-savings estimate shows the district will simply not save $600,000 by closing Bouquet Canyon.

District Superintendent Judy Fish told the audience at a recent community meeting that Bouquet Canyon would be closed irrespective of the budget crisis or the opening of the new West Creek Elementary School.

The primary reason offered was the aging portable classrooms at Bouquet Canyon. Our students are in those classrooms due to the inability of the district to deliver on the promise of a new, permanent campus.

Despite 15 years of promises for a new school, the district was unable to deliver due to the inability to secure county approval or developer cooperation.

The broken promises of a new school, coupled with the impending closure of the current campus, are difficult for the Bouquet Canyon community to accept.

In addition, Bouquet Canyon is certainly not the only campus with aging portable classrooms. According to information provided by the district, four other campuses have more portable classrooms than permanent classrooms, and the average age of the portables at these schools ranges to upwards of 17 years old. That is only three years newer than the portable classrooms at Bouquet Canyon.

However, the district has admitted it has no specific plans for replacing those buildings, with the exception of the portable rooms at Emblem.

Closing a school and displacing hundreds of students should be one of the final cuts a district should consider. While we are aware the district is in negotiations with employee unions regarding concessions and is abandoning class-size reduction to save money, the district has not communicated effectively with parents to illustrate what other areas are subject to the budget knife.

Perhaps if district officials could slow down the closure process and include parents more in the actual decision-making process, the decision to close Bouquet Canyon would be easier to understand and accept.

This column was submitted by David Powell on behalf of himself and 59 other Bouquet Canyon Elementary School-area residents. It reflects their own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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