One week before a key deadline, two members of the San Diego Unified committee that must recommend which schools to close to save money are hesitant to name schools, saying they have too little information and are worried that the process lacked enough community input.

Their comments echoed those of community members who complain that San Diego Unified is not following its own policies for school closure.

Carol Hunter and Paul Hernandez, who were appointed by new San Diego Unified school board members John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera, joined the committee in November after it had already been meeting several months. While other members explicitly named schools that they felt could be closed — some directly countering each other — the two new members demurred from naming schools that could be considered for closure and raised questions about how the decision was being made.

“I am not averse to closing schools,” Hunter said. “What I am concerned about — I want this committee to make thoughtful and informed positions.” She said she was “still working with piecemeal information” and said that she needed to hear from every school up for closure.

Hunter later added, “It is the fundamental process that needs to be re-evaluated.”

Hernandez said he was not prepared to give a listing of schools and felt the quantity and quality of data available to make the choice was insufficient. He added that his recommendation, while still in the making, could also be “more directed towards a process” to close schools than a list of schools.

School district staffers estimate that $500,000 in facilities and administrative costs can be saved for every small elementary school that is closed and its students sent elsewhere. That estimate is disputed by some critics who believe it underestimates the cost of maintaining empty schools and keeping them free from crime.

The committee is due to make its recommendations in one week. Its leader, Jim Varnadore, hinted that the committee would not need consensus and could put each school to a vote to make its recommendations. Any final decisions will be made by the school board and closures are intended to begin this fall.


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