Parents rally to keep high performing school from closing

January 12, 2011 7:33:13 PM PST
Several hundred students and parents lined the sidewalk along Concord's Carlotta Drive to protest the possible closure of one of the area's top performing elementary schools. "Save our school! Save our School!" chanted the crowd from Monte Gardens Elementary.

Despite an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 918, Monte Gardens is on a preliminary list of seven schools identified for possible closure in the Mt. Diablo School District. The district needs to save at least $1.5 million per year with school closures. To do that, at least three schools on the list will likely be closed.

Monte Gardens has high test scores, but it's not considered a "community school" because it draws many of its students from outside the immediate neighborhood. "I've heard people say that because we're a school of choice and our families don't live in the neighborhood, we're not the same as what they call community schools," said parent Julia Willsie. "Although our community is very dispersed and very diverse, we are still very much a community."

"It's a travesty to close any school," said Mt. Diablo School Board Member Gary Eberhart. "We were a school district of 50,000 kids. Now we're a school district of 32,000, so at some point from an economic perspective, you have to start looking whether it's rational to leave this number of schools open or do we need to consolidate."

Mt. Diablo has already made $50 million in cuts in three years. Now, the district must trim another $12 million from the current budget of $270 million.

The students and parents at Monte Gardens hope the next cuts don't come at their expense. "If other schools close, we would welcome them," said fourth-grader Kaitlyn Bonner.

There is a public study session on the school closure issue set for next Wednesday, Jan. 19 at Northgate High School at 5:30 p.m. The board is expected to make its final decision at a meeting on Feb. 8.