Teachers upset as board votes to turn middle school into K-8

Dry Creek Elementary School will also close as part of vote
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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Dry Creek Elementary School in Roseville will close beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, and Creekview Ranch Middle School will become a kindergarten through eighth grade campus.

The unanimous vote by the school board on Feb. 21 came much to the delight of some Dry Creek teachers eager to work in a better facility and to the dismay of some Creekview teachers, parents and students who worry the change will hurt what they consider a state-of-the-art school.

Board members said their support for the plan comes down to making what they consider a prudent fiscal decision. They vowed to staff the school at levels that maintain full physical education minutes for middle school students, intervention programs, advanced math and junior high athletic programs.

“We’re going to take 18 months to try and do it right,” said board member Jeff Randall.

Randall said in the San Juan Unified School District where he works as a teacher, 63 layoffs are being proposed for next year. Dry Creek isn’t cutting any jobs.

“Anything we can do to save money and save teachers and save classified jobs is really tough to get upset about,” Randall said.

The board cast its vote after an hour of public comment with 15 people, primarily Creekview teachers, expressing their opposition to the plan.

“Is there a board policy that prohibits the board from meeting with teachers outside of a board meeting? … I don’t feel like this is a dialogue,” said Creekview sixth-grade teacher Kara Cunningham. “You’re talking to us, we’re talking to you. We are not working together.”

Cunningham said she would have liked to meet with Dry Creek teachers and district staff to devise a hypothetical master schedule to see how the reconfiguration of Creekview into a K-8 would actually work.

Board President Scott Otsuka said the trustees would not be involved in that process, but Cunningham’s views echoed those of several other teachers who said they felt left out of the decision-making process.

Creekview seventh-grader Rajul Bains and friend Jared Jacobs passed out sheets with reasons why their school should remain as is, including their concern that older kids will bully younger ones.

“One of our main reasons why we should not have Creekview Middle School become K-8 is because of bullying,” Rajul said. “As you know, bullying has increased over the years.”

The nearly 140-year-old Dry Creek Elementary School is in dire need of infrastructure improvements, according to district staff, and suffers from low enrollment. Renovating the campus would cost an estimated $28 million.

“Dry Creek has become a very tough environment in which to educate. It has become a tough environment in which to learn … I think we all agree we have to move students from the Dry Creek campus,” Otsuka said.

The district currently has 6,942 students and has been faced with declining enrollment over the past few years. That number is expected to drop to 6,554 in two years. Dry Creek has the smallest population at 484 pupils. All of the district’s 10 schools, in Roseville and Antelope, have empty classrooms.

Starting in 1990, nine more campuses were built at an average of one every 18 months. That growth has slowed down as residential development has dramatically declined. The district plans to eventually build Morgan Creek Elementary School, for an estimated $30 million, but that project remains several years away.

To become a K-8 campus, Creekview will turn three sixth-grade science rooms into kindergarten classrooms, add two playgrounds and modify parking lots. The district estimates a $425,000 cost involved, but says the district will break even by 2015 and then generate an ongoing savings of $225,000 annually.

With the start of the 2014-15 school year, all Coyote Ridge Elementary School students who move on to seventh grade will begin attending Silverado Middle School, except for students currently attending Creekview. All Barrett Ranch students heading into middle school will now attend Antelope Crossing, except for those currently at Creekview.

Board member Diane Howe, who became a trustee more than 20 years ago, said education is all about embracing change. If not, she said, students would still be using chalk and blackboards.

“Change is inevitable,” Howe said. “So we will change.”