Trustees of the Sacramento City Unified School District voted 4-2 Thursday to convert Rosa Parks Middle School to a kindergarten through eighth-grade campus to accommodate students displaced when nearby Mark Hopkins Elementary closes at the end of the school year.
The action was the latest in a series of decisions in recent months connected to the closure of seven elementary schools, including Mark Hopkins. Those closures, approved Feb. 21, are intended to ease the financial burden of declining district enrollment, saving the district nearly $1.1 million. The action also is forcing 2,300 students to relocate.
Thursday night's vote means that Mark Hopkins students need not travel much farther next fall because their school is adjacent to Rosa Parks.
The alternative, abandoned on the recommendation of Superintendent Jonathan P. Raymond, would have automatically enrolled existing Mark Hopkins students at either John Bidwell or John Sloat elementary schools in the fall.
Trustees Christina Pritchett and Diana Rodriguez, who cast the "no" votes, lamented that there was not better planning in advance of elementary students' relocation to Rosa Parks and complained that there was a lack of clarity about the total cost.
"I think this is not a good option," Rodriguez said. "This is not a (traditional) K-8 model. This is backward, and I'm not in favor of it. It needs further study."
But board Vice President Patrick Kennedy called himself "a fan of the K-8 model."
"I'm a big believer in the K-8 system," he said. "That may not be from a definitive educational study. But it sure does come from the gut of a parent. I'm very supportive of this. I think it's good for the community."
Raymond said costs associated with the Rosa Parks conversion were one-time expenses, including $75,000 to move a portable classroom.
Before the board discussed the middle school issue, board President Jeff Cuneo raised hackles when he told people at the meeting not to expect the board to reverse its decision to close seven elementary schools at the end of this school year, including Mark Hopkins.
"We have made a decision to close schools," Cuneo said in his "president's report" to those in attendance. "It will not be an issue that will be debated again in the future."
A handful of people challenged Cuneo's remarks.
"I am appalled that you are stating that there will be no revisiting (the issue) and no debate," said Leo Bennett-Cauchon, who described himself as an advocate for neighborhood schools. "This (the closings) was a shock-and-awe campaign."
Trustee Rodriguez later voiced her own concerns.
"You should be cognizant that despite the fact it was a majority vote on school closure, there are still three members on the board who do not agree with that decision.
"And for a board president to say that we will not revisit school closures really is painful to hear," she said.
Bennett-Cauchon said in an interview that several dozen parents had rallied outside the boardroom several hours before the board's discussion. The rally organizers, led by the Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education, had sought to have the Feb. 21 school closure vote rescinded, citing the high minority population of the schools to be closed.
Also closing are Washington, Maple, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim and Clayton B. Wire elementary schools.
The district, which has 47,000 students, lost 10 percent of its enrollment in the past decade and expects the decline to continue.
Editor's note: On April 5, the quote by Trustee Diana Rodriguez was corrected to read: "And for a board president to say that we will not revisit school closures really is painful to hear."