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Pritchett: Scrap SCUSD Plan to Close Schools, Start Over

The school board trustee representing Rosemont speaks out against the district's plan to close 11 schools.

Pritchett: Scrap SCUSD Plan to Close Schools, Start Over

Some students in Rosemont may see their elementary school close next year, but not if their school board member has anything to say about it.

Christina Pritchett, a first-year trustee on the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education, says she's opposed to the district's plan to close 11 under-enrolled elementary schools, including James W. Marshall Elementary School in Rosemont.

"I'm wiling to make the hard decisions–we just need to make sure we're making the right choices," Pritchett said in a phone interview last week. "The plan that was proposed to us was flawed."

On Thursday, the school board heard hours of comments from numerous parents, students and other community members on the topic, extending the board's meeting until about midnight, Pritchett said.

She said while she's not opposed to the idea of closing schools to save money, the current proposal compares apples to oranges and is rushed.

"They can't use the same yardstick for every school across the board," she said.

Pritchett said she's heard passionate arguments for saving each school in the district's list of proposed closures, and gets a new email about the topic "every five minutes."

But she has several arguments for saving James Marshall, the school in the area she represents.

Its Academic Performance Index scores are the highest of the 11 schools targeted for closure, and it's the only school with a number higher than 800, the state's goal. 

Last year, nearby A.M. Winn Elementary School avoided closure in part by reconfiguring itself to a Waldorf-style campus. If James Marshall closes, many of its students would be sent to A.M. Winn, and Pritchett said she's heard from parents who don't want to send their kids to a Waldorf-style school.

James Marshall was also completely rebuilt and renovated 10 years ago, so it makes sense to continue to use it, Pritchett said.

But she acknowledges the district needs to find a way to close its budget gap: Pritchett suggests forming another 7-11 committee, the group that provided recommendations for school consolidations and closures in 2011.

She also said all possibilities should be on the table to save money: the idea of closing or consolidating middle and high schools, as well as the district's under-performing "priority schools."

"The Board of Education needs to look at the entire picture and not just the schools that are under-enrolled," she said. "The current plan needs to just go away and we just need to start over."

The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Feb. 21.

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