As enrollment at Gilroy elementary schools continues on a downward trend—which directly affects the amount of state aid they receive—the closing of at least one school is becoming more likely, say school officials.
There are 54 empty classrooms in all at Gilroy Unified School District campuses, according to Mark Good, a veteran trustee and current vice president of the board of education.
“That’s a huge amount, and for the last two years, our enrollment has declined. We have almost 400 fewer students,” Good said. “It doesn’t take a lot to figure out that we are gonna have to close a school.”
District leaders have estimated a $5 million hit in average daily attendance, with enrollment steadily shrinking despite the boom of new housing developments within the school district boundaries. The school board already approved nearly $3 million in budget cuts, but it’s not enough. A school closure is estimated to save $750,000 per year, according to staff.
“If we don’t start taking action now, we’re going to be in a financial crisis,” said Good, who is one of two school board members (president James Pace being the other) on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Closing Schools.
The committee has met five times since January, and the next step is to wait and see what kindergarten enrollment is for the first day of school in August. If the student count is down as expected, the committee’s recommendation will be presented to the board at its Aug. 22 meeting, according to Good. The birth rate in Gilroy’s 95020 ZIP code has been on a steady decline, from 1,1019 new births in 2006 to 797 in 2017, according to a June 13 staff presentation to the board.
“There’s nothing to indicate that ( kindergarten enrollment) is going to be larger. At that time, we will take a look and see where we are,” Good said. “The reality is we have to close one school, and in the next couple of years it could be two schools if the numbers keep going the way they are.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Gilroy school leaders were allocating bond money to build a new elementary school, which was designed and planned off Santa Teresa Boulevard near Ascencion Solorsano Middle School. However, a demographic study killed that plan, and the district focused on renovating its middle schools instead.
Good sat on the school board in the late ’90s, when the district recommended closing San Ysidro School due to safety concerns. At that time, the board voted against the closure, only to have the school close its doors a few years later.
“There’s a lot of emotions that go into doing something like that, and if we do close a school, which school are we going to close?” Good said. “No matter what the committee recommends, it is going to be up to the school board to decide.”
The committee outlined evaluation criteria with eight elements:
1) There are neighboring schools to receive closing school’s students
2) School enrollment is low
3) Resident populations vs. attending enrollment for the school
4) General education students are bused to the school
5) Condition of facility and/or operating costs
6) The school has limited capacity for future growth
7) School closure will prevent keeping geographical neighborhoods together
8) School houses district-wide or special education programs
“We expect that a decision will be made no later than the end of September for an August 2020 closure,” said Good, adding that the district would more than likely lease out the school rather than sell the land. “Four or five years from now, things can chance and we don’t want to be behind the gun to have to start a new school.”
*Elementary school enrollment changes, 2011-12 to 2018-19
Antonio Del Buono, -174
El Roble, +69
Glen View, -106
Las Animas, -15
Luigi Aprea, -71
Rod Kelly, -3
Lost revenue, $3.8 million
*Elementary school, 2018-19 enrollment / existing capacity
Antonio Del Buono, 452 / 710
El Roble, 630 / 662
Eliot, 438 / 696
Glen View, 519 / 750
Las Animas, 745 / 935
Luigi Aprea, 628 / 851
Rod Kelly, 756 / 776
Rucker, 577 / 581
*Source: Gilroy Unified School District