The school board there must consider the painful process of closing several schools, even though just last week voters approved a parcel tax to try to save school programs. That parcel tax was actually just an extension of an existing tax that has already been commited to things like councilors and librarians. It will not prevent the district from having to cut or close as many as six or seven schools.
API scores are improving significantly at Coronado Elementary, in Richmond, but now it's targeted for closure.
"I really like this school and I like all the teachers here and I don't want them to go away," said Daffey Ramirez, a Coronado 4th grader.
The downturn in the economy has the West Contra Costa County School District looking to shave $3 million out of its budget in the next two years. On Wednesday night, the school board began developing criteria to decide which schools get axed.
"Even though we past a parcel tax giving us $10 million, the need is just not there. We're not meeting the need," said Charles Ramsey, the school board president.
"Mr. Ramsey promised us, promised us two years ago that we would never talk about school closure," said Al Kirkman, a retired teacher.
"This is not an option. Schools, children, teachers is not an option for you to balance your budget," said Kathleen Casey, a parent.
In the past five years, enrollment has declined by 4,000 students. A total loss of about $20 million in annual funding, but low enrollment has its benefits, especially for underperforming schools.
"Test scores are up, we're doing well at a lot of these schools and the schools we're talking about," said Charles Ramsey.
But low enrollment is a strong argument for closing and consolidating schools. West Contra Costa has a smaller pupil-per-school ratio than districts of comparable size, like Mt. Diablo and San Jose.
One board member wants to exclude newer and renovated schools in the criteria.
"A new building is all it is. What matters our community, to me, to my children is what goes into those buildings. Not the buildings themselves," said Anne Palmer, a parent.
Now the board must come up with its criteria by December 10th. It plans to drop the ax in early February with a second round of closures for the 2010 school year.