Board votes to close 2 elementary schools in San Jose

The Evergreen Unified School District School Board on Thursday voted to close Laurelwood and Dove Hill Elementary Schools in San Jose at the end of the school year. The vote was 4-0 with one board member absent. The vote will impact 700 students and their families.

Many people at the board meeting were in agreement that no one wants see schools shut down but there was resounding support. The majority viewed the closures as a necessity.

“I do along with many of my colleagues support school consolidations because it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do,” said Teacher Tami Compton.

The district said the schools were chosen given enrollment trends, costs to operate and maintain the campuses and neighboring schools that could take students in.

“Alternatives could have included increasing class sizes, cutting programs, layoffs across the district,” said Heather McGowan, Evergreen School District spokeswoman.

McGowan said the closures would impact the least number of students overall.

The district would save $450,000 a year which is the cost to operate a school. The district faces a $12 million shortfall and low enrollment.

“The decision to close schools is not an easy one,” said McGowan. “Many school districts across the state of California are having to go to the same process because of declining enrollment.”

“This is not an Evergreen only problem,” said Supt. Emy Flores.

It’s a trend consistent with other school districts in the Bay Area, given the high cost of housing and many families are moving to lower-cost areas. Declining birth rates are a factor too.

The board in the end looked at the math and the district's future and approved the closures.

“When I was presented with the numbers,” said School Board Trustee Marisa Hanson. “Immediately I thought we don’t have the numbers to have these many schools open.”

Nausher Cholavaram’s 5-year-old was supposed to attend Laurelwood next year. He understands the board’s decision and deficit.

“We are a little torn,” said Cholavaram. “No parent wants to see a school close. It is with a heavy heart but I think it's for the better for now.”

Students would be moved to four neighboring schools. Staff moved to other schools as well. The district is planning to close a third school at the end of next year. The school has not yet been identified.