Six San Diego Unified schools were recommended today for closure by a committee tapped by Superintendent Terry Grier in light of a daunting budget crisis that could slice as much as $50 million or more from its coffers in the current school year.

The six elementary schools that were recommended for closure are Barnard, Cadman, Carver, Crown Point, North Park and Sequoia, which are spread throughout the school district. Three other schools divided the committee equally, including Central Elementary, a City Heights school that has adequate enrollment but is in poor shape and has a gas line running underneath the campus.

The decision came down to a charged series of votes in which Carol Hunter and Paul Hernandez, who were appointed by new San Diego Unified school board members John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera, voted against closing any schools and said that San Diego Unified had failed to seek enough community input on the difficult question.

The school district has thus far waived its own outreach policies on shuttering schools because staffers believe there is too little time and are seeking to close schools by fall.

The process was “not set up to listen,” Hernandez said. “It was set up to decide.” He later added, “If a business does not have the time to listen to its customers, the end result is that one is not in business.”

The question of whether or not to close schools to save money has been batted around for years as student enrollment dropped in San Diego Unified but schools multiplied.  It is a politically toxic step that past school boards have dodged in the face of community uproar. But a renewed budget crisis handed down by the state has pushed the district to again consider shuttering schools: San Diego Unified staffers estimate it will save between $450,000 and $500,000 in administration, custodial costs, maintenance and utilities for each school that is closed.

That estimate is disputed by some opponents who say it underestimates the costs of maintaining empty schools and keeping them free from vandalism and other crime. (For more information on how the number was calculated, click here. )

Some committee members were frustrated that they had only recommended six schools to the superintendent and school board.

“We failed because two people just voted no and didn’t do their job,” said William Wright, who said the committee was supposed to name 10 or 12 potential schools to trim up to $5 million from the budget. He voted to close schools that he would prefer to spare when he realized that Hunter and Hernandez were voting down every closure.

The ultimate decision of which schools, if any, to close will be made by the San Diego Unified board. Students and teachers at the impacted schools would be sent to other, neighboring schools and bus transportation is not expected to be provided unless a student is enrolled in a magnet school, bused for integration purposes, or a special education student.


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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