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February 25, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 25, 2005

Editorial Editorial (February 25, 2005)

Give closure decision another year

No one expected it would be easy to close one of the seven Mountain View-Whisman elementary schools. But even after more than a year of study by a school-closure task force and a recommendation to close Slater School that was supported by Superintendent Eleanor Yick, the district's board of trustees still seems hopelessly conflicted about which school to close.

This became apparent last week when Board President Ellen Wheeler announced that she was recommending the district close Castro School instead of Slater, a switch she believes will be less disruptive to both schools and enable Castro's predominantly Spanish-speaking population to be dispersed to other schools with more English-speaking students. This is particularly important for students in the Dual Immersion program, she said, where it is preferred that an equal number of English-speakers work side by side with Spanish-speakers, a synergy that has been shown to speed up the English-learning process for Hispanic students.

While these and other ideas that Wheeler presented last week may have merit, passing on a 3-2 vote, the unfortunate message to parents, teachers and students is that the board is a long way from a well-thought-out closure plan. And for Castro parents especially, such a decision would represent a cruel blow that would wipe out a neighborhood institution.

When testimony is taken on March 10 and 16 about the newly-offered plan, how many of the 80 percent of Castro families who don't speak English as their primary language will speak up to save their school? These are families who do not normally attend board meetings but who now have a tremendous stake in this decision.

The district is basing its school closure on the need to gain $300,000 to $400,000 a year by closing one school and renting out the campus. But so far, no board member has suggested saving or raising enough money to keep all schools open for the 2005-06 academic year, in order to more thoroughly study which school to close.

We hope the board, and the administration, will agree that rather than forcing a little-understood and unpopular school-closure decision on parents and students, cooler heads will prevail. This issue needs one more year of intense study, time that should be used to educate the public about what will be gained by closing one of the district's seven schools and which one should be closed.

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