[This post also appears in the Press-Citizen today.]
Hoover Elementary is just one of many schools in our district, but its closure would have implications for everyone. Here are five reasons everyone should care about the proposed closure:
1. Responsiveness to public input. At the district’s community workshops and in responses to the district’s survey questions, the public repeatedly made its opposition to school closings clear – by a roughly two-to-one margin. If the board is willing to stray that far from public input on this issue, what will it do on the other difficult issues, such as redistricting, that it will face over the next four years? And without the public’s trust, how does the board expect to get the 60% approval it needs to pass the bonds that will be necessary to fund its plans?
2. Transparency. The district sold the Revenue Purpose Statement to the voters by saying that it would result in improvements to older schools and the construction of new schools to reduce overcrowding. Nobody mentioned closing schools. Only after the voters had authorized new spending did the board propose to close Hoover. To make matters worse, the board has refused to identify how the Hoover property will be used, and how much that use will cost. (There is wide agreement that the proposed addition to City High will not go on the Hoover property, because it is too far from City’s other classroom areas.) Isn’t the public entitled to answers to those questions before a school closing is approved?
3. Cost. Tearing down a school when enrollment is expanding is very expensive, because you have to rebuild that capacity elsewhere, at great cost. The district plans to spend between ten and fifteen million dollars to replace Hoover’s capacity elsewhere, just to annex its approximately five acres of land to City High, for a use that no one can identify. That’s between two and three million dollars per acre, at a time when the district is already $100 million short of what it needs to fulfill its other plans. The district can’t afford to spend that much to gain so little.
4. Independence. The board’s willingness to uncritically accept the consultants’ interpretations of capacity and enrollment data led to a plan that will cost $100 million more than the board has at its disposal. We need board members who scrutinize the data, ask hard questions, and push back against the administration, its consultants, and the groupthink that too often sets in on the board.
5. Precedent. The same efficiency rationale that is being used to justify closing Hoover would apply equally (or more forcefully) to several other schools that are smaller than Hoover and serve fewer kids. A policy of consolidating smaller neighborhood schools into fewer, larger schools could justify closing Hills, Lincoln, Mann, Longfellow, or Shimek, just as it justified closing Roosevelt four years ago. Why shouldn’t we expect the district to treat other schools the same way it’s treated Roosevelt and Hoover?
No matter which part of the district you live in, the Hoover closure affects you. You can find out more about where the candidates stand on this issue at SaveHoover.blogspot.com.