Looming budget deficits and declining enrollment at Pasadena public schools may force officials to shutter two elementary school campuses in 2014 and halt plans to reopen the former Linda Vista Elementary campus, Pasadena Unified School District Chief Finance Officer John Pappalardo said Tuesday.
Parents at San Rafael Elementary School, which is projected to close in 2015 due to seismic safety requirements, advocate moving San Rafael students to Linda Vista because it is the only other public school campus in West Pasadena.
Supt. Jon Gundry “will consult with San Rafael parents before making his recommendation to the board [about Linda Vista], and it’s up to the board to make a final decision,” said Wolfson.
The school district is bracing for deep cuts in June to balance a $12 million budget gap next year.
Enrollment, a key factor in how much state funding the district receives, has decreased by more than 500 students since last year, according to district documents. A preliminary headcount in October identified 18,029 students at Pasadena public schools.
“We’ve had a precipitous drop in elementary school enrollment this year,” Pappalardo said during a meeting of the school board’s finance subcommittee Tuesday. “We know we have excess capacity in our elementary schools, and we are targeting at least two elementary schools for consolidation” after the 2013-14 school year.
Discussions regarding which schools may close will begin next spring, Pappalardo said, but he is pushing board members to decide soon whether to put the Linda Vista campus up for lease in the hopes that revenue could soften next year’s budget cuts. Leasing out Linda Vista would preempt its consideration as a replacement for San Rafael.
But officials estimate that reviving Linda Vista Elementary would cost the district about $12 million.
School board member Scott Phelps, who lives in West Pasadena, said Linda Vista should remain an option for redirecting San Rafael students.
“I support a public school on the west side,” said Phelps. “The west side pays the most in property taxes of any area in the district. … As a board member and a taxpayer, [eliminating all West Pasadena campuses] doesn’t seem equitable.”
Emily Mencken, a San Rafael parent organizer, said removing the Linda Vista option would fly in the face of community consensus and unravel nearly six months of dialogue with school district leaders.
“We’ve had open and direct conversations. This would feel like a complete right turn,” said Mencken.
“We’re not naïve. We recognize the fiscal environment,” she added. “As we’re looking at options, we’re also working to put together a development plan to try to raise the funds.”
Homeowners near the Linda Vista campus also oppose any lease deal that would close off public access to the school’s former two-acre playground, now a city park.
Documents show 382 students attending San Rafael this year, only eight fewer than in 2011-2012.
Washington Accelerated Elementary posted the district’s greatest decrease in enrollment, from 727 to 659 students this year. Altadena Elementary dropped from 405 students to 345.
The district’s smallest elementary schools, Cleveland and Roosevelt, are also shrinking. Cleveland dropped from 293 students to 251, and Roosevelt slid from 300 to 259.
Field, Webster, Longfellow and Jackson elementary schools posted enrollment gains.