The Dallas School Board wants to hear from parents of students in 11 schools slated to be closed because of low enrollment. KERA’s BJ Austin says a series of public meetings will be scheduled over the next two weeks, ahead of the final vote.
Dallas School District director of financial management Steve Korby told the board members that closing nine elementary and one middle school this year, and another middle school in 2013 would save more than 11 million dollars. And he says that’s money desperately needed because the District will lose more state funding next school year – 38 million dollars.
Korby: If the school consolidations, if we didn’t do any of those, it would require us to decrease secondary teachers by 171 and increasing class sizes at the secondary level.
Birgitta Day, with a son in kindergarten at Bonham Elementary, cautioned against closing the school.
Day: Houses are going up. Children will come in. They will need the school. We have to give it to them. If we close it now, it will be so hard to put back in place because everything is working exceptionally.
Bonham is kindergarten through third grade. Birgitta Day suggested adding the fourth and fifth grades to Bonham to solve the low enrollment problem.
Interim Superintendent Alan King says that sounds like it would work, but it doesn't.
King: The more kids you get in a school, the cost per student will go down. But the question is, when you move them over, you’re also impacting enrollment in other schools.
King says the cost per student – that’s faculty-salaries and all other expenses divided by number of students – is way too high at the low enrollment schools. Officials say the anticipated renewal of the federal No Child Left Behind Act will have stringent “comparability” requirements – equalizing per student spending. And more schools will likely have to be closed down the road.
But Board Member Carla Ranger says the schools on this list are some of the top performing with the best teachers and principals. She says closing them may not be the “smart” thing to do.
Ranger: I think that 11 million certainly in a Billion dollar budget can be found.
Other board members seemed in agreement, or at least resigned to the plan for school consolidations. In fact, there was general agreement that the upcoming meetings with parents would take place in the “receiving” schools – the ones their children will attend if the Board approves the closings January 26th.