By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Closure of Doyle Park Elementary School would be avoided for now under a tentative agreement between Doyle Park supporters and the Santa Rosa City Schools district.
Sources say the preliminary agreement would allow Doyle Park students to remain at the school at least for a year, sharing the campus with the district’s new French American Charter School. The deal would effectively settle a lawsuit filed by a group fighting to keep the school open.
In March, the school board voted to close Doyle Park, citing declining enrollment, low test scores and a $180,000 operating deficit. The board also voted to assign the Doyle Park campus to the French charter school, which became a district responsibility when it was approved as a dependent charter in December.
Specifics of the agreement were not available Wednesday, but attorneys acknowledged the potential settlement.
“We are extremely optimistic that we have worked out a resolution where all parties will be able to work together,” said Edie Sussman, a Santa Rosa attorney representing Doyle Park advocates.
In April, Sussman and a team of local and San Francisco attorneys sued the Santa Rosa school board and superintendent, claiming that the decision to close Doyle Park was illegal.
The attorneys, who represent a group of Doyle Park students, parents, teachers and Latino activists, alleged among other things that the decision violated open-meeting rules under the California Brown Act and state law governing conversion of schools to charter schools. The civil case was brought before Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Tansil.
On April 27, Santa Rosa school officials agreed to suspend closing Doyle Park until Tansil had a chance to rule on the lawsuit challenging the closure. That ruling was expected June 7.
Under the April 27 agreement, the school district’s newly formed French-American charter school could continue to enroll children and hire staff, but for the time being could not guarantee parents and prospective employees that the Doyle Park campus would be theirs.
Santa Rosa attorney Roy Miller, who represents the founders of the French charter school, said he could not comment on the issue because he and the other parties had agreed to keep it confidential.
Miller said his clients’ main concern is preventing any possible agreement from undermining the French school’s charter.
“I hope that there is a way within the next few hours or few days that we find an agreement that we can live with,” Miller said.
On Tuesday, attorneys met separately with Tansil and discussed settlement terms. Sussman said talk of a possible agreement had begun on the weekend.
Any agreement would have to be approved by the school board.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.