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San Diego Unified is sparing one school, Rowan Elementary, from closure after members of an advisory committee complained that its new list of schools up for closure did not reflect their recommendations.

The new list, created by staff, put different schools on the chopping block than the committee, composed of parents and community members, had recommended in January. This latest list includes several schools that are less expensive to operate than the ones originally proposed for closure. Closing the schools is meant to save money on administration and facilities costs by consolidating students in fewer buildings with fewer principals. It is a politically explosive move that has gone year to year, school board to school board, without action.

In an e-mail to the school board, Superintendent Terry Grier explained:

(Small schools committee chairman) Jim Varnadore provides a good perspective in his comments regarding closing small schools.  After careful thought, we agree with the small school closure committee’s position on the closure of Rowan Elementary and are pulling it from our list of proposed closures.   

The staff also made a purposeful decision not to pursue closure of two fledgling district-wide magnet schools—Barnard and Crown Point.  It is my understanding that both have had very good magnet ‘recruiting’ effort and are on track to fill their space … Several of the driving forces behind staff’s small school closure recommendations were potential cost savings and time.  The closures that staff recommended can be accomplished without bringing in portable classrooms to schools receiving the students from closed schools.  This was important because of our time frame.  (Chief Special Projects Officer) Bill Kowba informed me that we did not have time, between now and the beginning of the school year, for the state to approve the relocation and installation of portable classrooms.

Grier added that the school district might still consider closing other schools if the budget worsens. The list now consists of six schools: Adams, Cadman, North Park (which the school board has already decided to close to house its program for suspended students), Paradise Hills, Rolando Park and Sequoia elementary schools. The closures of seven schools were estimated to save $3.1 million, $400,000 of which was to come from the closure of Rowan. School board members have been extremely reluctant to close schools, especially because the district is not following its own procedures for community input and closure, which Grier has said would take too much time in light of the budget crisis.

EMILY ALPERT

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