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School board postpones vote on closing Dry Creek

Trustees to consider school closure, turning Creekview Ranch into K-8
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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A Roseville district has postponed a vote to close an elementary school and transition a middle school into a kindergarten through eighth grade campus, citing significant community input.

Board members of the Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District said during Wednesday night’s meeting they needed more time to allow for community input before making their decision. The vote is now scheduled for Feb. 21.

The board is considering whether to close the historic Dry Creek Elementary School and turn Creekview Ranch Middle School into a K-8 to accommodate displaced students beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.

The district cites low enrollment and inadequate infrastructure as reasons for shuttering Dry Creek, which is nearly 140 years old. The campus uses leased portables that constitute an ongoing expense, lacks a multipurpose room and its classrooms aren’t energy efficient.

The district currently has 6,942 students spread over 10 campuses. That number is expected to drop to 6,554 in two years. Dry Creek has the smallest population at 484 pupils.

About 200 people packed into Creekview’s multipurpose room for the meeting. Several teachers from Dry Creek Elementary School approached the podium to encourage the board to vote in favor of closing their school and relocating staff and students to Creekview  Ranch Middle School.

Teacher Tina Sinnott, who has been with the district 27 years, held back tears as she reflected on Dry Creek’s history as a single-school district from 1867 until the 1990s.

Over the course of the next several years, nine more campuses were built at an average of one every 18 months. That growth has slowed down as residential development has steeply declined in the past few years. The district plans to eventually build Morgan Creek Elementary School, for an estimated $30 million, but that remains several years away.

“I believe this is a very thoughtful and caring solution to an expensive problem” Sinnott said.

Fellow teacher Brandi Payne told the board she inter-district transfers her child to a K-8 school in another district because of the benefits she thinks this type of program has on children.

Creekview eighth-grader Miriam Mars said she agrees that Dry Creek students need a new campus, but that there must be a better solution than disrupting what she called her state-of-the-art campus.

“Why would you want to change something that’s so successful?” Miriam asked.

The district currently has empty classrooms at all of its campuses, and Miriam questioned why the displaced students can’t be dispersed among various schools. District staff said doing so would divide the Dry Creek community, require the redrawing of elementary boundaries and increase transportation costs at a one-time cost of $450,000 and an ongoing expense of $79,000.

Miriam’s father, Jim Mars, added that as a taxpayer he’s concerned about the cost involved with undertaking facility changes at Creekview, including turning three sixth-grade science rooms into kindergarten classrooms, adding two playgrounds and modifying parking lots.

The district estimates a $425,000 cost to cover these modifications, but says the district will break even by 2015 and then generate an ongoing savings of $225,000 annually.

Jaimie Camarillo, a physical education teacher at Creekview Ranch, said staff wasn’t made aware of the potential change until the day before administrators planned to present the proposal to the school board in January.

“(Creekview) staff felt ‘in the dark’ and ‘not involved in the solution process,’” Camarillo wrote in a letter to trustees. “In past practices to include staff and parents, our district would create a committee. Why was there no committee formed to help provide the board with more than one recommendation?”

Camarillo’s letter contained a list of concerns, including the impact on academics, campus culture, physical education, middle school sports and more. She also questioned how older and younger students will interact, when 14-years-olds and kindergarteners share the same campus.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved no budget reductions for 2013-14. For the first time in five years, the district’s budget is stable because of the passage of Proposition 30.

“It’s wonderful to be able to tell everybody there are no layoffs this year,” said Superintendent Mark Geyer.