Parents from Kings Mountain Elementary School arrived in force at Cabrillo Unified School District’s Thursday night meeting to defend their school against possible closure.
Even with the apparent passage of the Measure I parcel tax, the school board must decide how to save and cut $1.75 to $2.5 million by December.
On Thursday, staff discussed specific positions, activities and schools that could be cut. Superintendent Sean McPhetridge will present a refined list at a special board meeting on Nov. 21.
These potential cuts and savings measures include cutting specific positions, such as assistant principals and counselors, creating combination classes, as well as eliminating or reducing specific activities, including Cunha Intermediate School extracurricular sports or fifth-grade band and music enrichment.
In addition to specific positions and programs, the possibilities include closing Kings Mountain Elementary School. Before the results of the parcel tax were known, consolidating El Granada and Farallone View elementary schools was also on the list, but McPhetridge told the board he was no longer recommending that.
Closing Kings Mountain is estimated to save the board $162,000 annually. One factor: an enrollment study the district commissioned indicated only 16 students who attend Kings Mountain live in the zip code near the school, and the rest come from elsewhere on the Coastside or outside the district.
“It’s a beautiful school,” McPhetridge said on Thursday night. “It’s a beautiful location, but it’s always going to be on the list. It’s been on the list. It was on the list when I came. It’s something that has to be recommended because of its size.”
Kings Mountain and El Granada are the two most expensive elementary schools to operate when looking at per-student spending, a calculation done, McPhetridge explained, by dividing the cost of assigned school staff by the number of students at the school. The costs at El Granada Elementary School can be attributed to a special education program, he said.
Pilarcitos High School is the most expensive school to operate due to its lower class size, but no specific cuts have been recommended for the alternative high school. Kings Mountain’s operation is also notably more expensive due to its small student population and fewer classrooms, which parents herald as the school’s advantage.
“There is a lot of value in small class size,” said Ted Thayer, who attended Kings Mountain and sent his daughter there. “I understand, as the superintendent was saying, there are small class sizes, and, therefore, the cost per student is high, but the benefit far exceeds the cost.”
“The decision before you is not merely one on a ledger, if you take away the very place where these children thrive, socially, emotionally and academically,” said Ben Rosner, parent of a student at Kings Mountain Elementary. “Your decision at this one moment in time will have indelible ripple effects throughout these children lives.”
Other speakers told the board many students would be placed in private schools or petition to go to Woodside Elementary School, if Kings Mountain closes. Some cited the voter support Kings Mountain families have given the district with past ballot measures.
Staff proposed the most cuts at the district office and with Cabrillo-wide services, $1.6 million in total, and at the intermediate school and high school, $1.2 million in combined cuts. Board President Sophia Layne said more discussion is needed around Kings Mountain and the other proposals.
None of the proposed cuts have been approved, and the board will not make any decisions at its meeting this week. Even when the board does vote on cuts, it is still subject to change as the state or federal budget could increase.