First, I want to say that I’ve always been an advocate of neighborhood schools. My children went to H. Glenn Richardson School and Dover for Middle School, and I loved both sites. Both schools had strong teachers and a committed administration. I’m sorry to see them leave the community. There are several reasons that they, along with the other schools are being closed, and I really do support the tough decisions that had to be made.
The closing of facilities has been coming for some time. I was on a District Committee discussing attendance boundaries four years ago, and when you looked at the numbers you could tell that there would need to be an increase in school age population or some schools were going to have such low attendance that they might be in danger of not being viable. We had built two new schools, and rehabbed the District Office back to an Elementary School, so we had an increase in Elementary School seats. One may ask why we built schools when we didn’t really need them. Well, in the byzantine maze of State funding, they were giving away money to build schools, and we had just passed a Bond measure which gave us money that could be used to build the schools. Also, the District had made promises to certain geographic communities that they would get a school as part of the negotiations to get the Bond measure passed. Another factor was the fact that the District had negotiated for the school sites and had the land to build. The final factor was that, in projecting future development, the District believed that these schools would be needed, in the future, for projected growth. Given the numbers and the community’s appetite for new schools it was a no brainer.
Like everyone else, the District believed that the growth in our community would continue, unabated, and that they were being smart in their decisions. The future also looked rosy for the State of California increasing their support of public education, so the schools would be supported until the community grew in to them. Then the world crashed in on Fairfield, like everyone else. Building permits dried up, development stopped, income from fees dropped dramatically, and then the State dropped their support for schools. With development stopping, the projected students were no longer coming to the District and the future turned very dark. With the new budgets cut to the bone, and still not coming close to being in balance, the tough decisions had to be made, and here we are.
The positives for the future are that, in most cases, the students will be in better facilities than those they left. The District will be in better shape financially, and hopefully they have looked further out than next year, and these moves will allow them to be in better shape to weather the uncertain future. Hopefully these tough moves will allow the District to not have to make even more unpopular decisions.