By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Both frustrated and resigned to the closure of Doyle Park Elementary School, teachers and parents asked, among other things, the Santa Rosa School Board why it is considering replacing the campus with a French charter school.
A Spanish program, rather than a French one, is more “relevant” and “practical” for Doyle students, said Gretta Klosevitz, a Doyle Park teacher and former student.
“I urge the district and the board to absorb and embrace our existing Doyle Park community,” she said at Wednesday night’s meeting.
While at least one board member pointed out that Doyle Park cannot continue to stay open while losing money, others expressed concern that a French school could potentially replace a campus with a large number of Spanish-speaking students with a school of predominantly white and affluent students.
Amy Kittelstrom, a Sonoma State history professor with a third-grader at Doyle Park, suggested that a French charter school would potentially reward those who are already taking their kids outside of Doyle Park’s residential boundaries.
Such a move, she told the board, “wouldn’t be a solution.”
It is the second time in three years that school officials have considered closing Doyle Park. In the latest debate, the district has warned that it will have to come up with more than $8 million in cuts if state voter’s do not approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan on the November ballot. School officials say that even if the ballot measure passes, the district faces $3 million in cuts.
From 2004 to 2011, the number of students dropped from 368 to 230. In a district report, officials said that the school loses $181,180 a year, more than any other elementary school in the district. The proposal also cited an overall decline in API test scores in the past 12 years.
School Board member Donna Jeye, while she applauded the students who spoke passionately about their school at the meeting, said the district could not continue to operate a school that loses money every year.
“We cannot afford to keep a facility open that doesn’t bring in enough revenue, and revenue is based on how many students attend that school,” said Jeye.
“What we’re looking for here is the best way to utilize that facility,” she said.
Several board members raised questions about a separate proposal that could put a French-language charter school at the Doyle Park campus after it closes. The French school is expected to have attendance of up to 200 students, officials said.
Board members Ron Kristof and Laura Gonzalez asked the district to explain how the district would benefit from replacing a school with a current attendance of 230 with a smaller school.
Kristof and Gonzalez said they would like the district to explore the idea of a Spanish-language charter.
Gonzalez said that school districts across the country have become increasingly “segregated” and that she would be troubled if the board “replaced this school with a school that is predominately white.”
“I am not currently liking where this is at,” she said.
The school board took no action Wednesday on the proposal. The district has scheduled a town hall meeting to discuss the proposal at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Herbert Slater Middle School.
The board will vote on the proposal at a later date.