Board members struggled to come to an agreement Tuesday night on the needed closure of a school site, but ultimately voted unanimously to shutter at the end of the current school year.
Wrestling with a variety of recommendations made by an advisory committee, trustees argued at length on which option would have the least impact on students and families, and put the district in the best position to deal with increasingly dire budget reductions. Closing the school is expected to save $350,000 in annual operating costs.
Committee members told the governing board that a decision to close Palm Middle School will disrupt the smallest number of students. They also noted that the district has successfully operated one middle school since 2010, when Lemon Grove Middle School was shut. Students will return to that campus when offering a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum opens this fall.
Trustees took on the grim task of weighing options offered by the parent-based committee headed by Glenn Heath, the district’s director of human resources, and reviewed six scenarios that included closing either one or two campuses, merging schools and repurposing sites.
The school district has been focused on the issue for months, hosting that proved to be emotional for those involved. Scores of parents pleaded with board members and district administrators to keep their schools off the chopping block.
But with the launch of the magnet school at the modernized Lemon Grove Middle School site slated for September, the district was forced to make a decision. The K-8 school district operates seven of its eight schools, and is facing an anticipated $2.4 million to $4.25 million budget shortfall in 2012-2013.
The Palm Middle School campus will be repurposed in the future. The committee also offered suggestions for new uses, including relocating the district’s central kitchen to the site, expanding under a charter school option, and creating a space for adult education or career technical education classes.