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Parents voice concerns on possible school closure

Sierra Gardens parents want kids to attend school within walking distance
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Each weekday afternoon, Juliana Reynolds walks over to Sierra Gardens Elementary School to retrieve her daughter and two nephews.

She totes along her son, Michael, who will attend kindergarten next year. She hopes he’ll be going to their neighborhood school.

“But we’ll wait and see what happens,” Reynolds said.

Roseville City School District is considering closing the kindergarten through sixth grade campus, in part due to declining enrollment, and as part of a plan to turn Eich Intermediate School into a sixth through eighth grade campus.

Currently, Eich is the only school in the district that’s seventh through eighth grade.

The change wouldn’t happen until 2013, but parents are already voicing their disappointment, as the district attempts to explain its reasoning.

“We’ve had a strong interest in bringing equity to our school district and bringing equal opportunity to our students,” said Superintendent Richard Pierucci, during an informational meeting at the campus Tuesday night.

About 75 parents attended the meeting, asking questions about the impact of the potential closure on their children. The school board may vote on the recommendation in late February.

“We are aware that not using Sierra Gardens as an elementary school is very important to all of you and is an emotional decision,” Pierucci said.

Parent Leann Torrez, who has a second grader at the school, was upset to hear the news.

“I frown on that possibility,” Torrez told the Press Tribune. “Most of the families I know are within walking distance.”

Transportation-related questions were a common theme during Tuesday’s meeting. Administrators said students who live outside a two-mile radius of the school have transportation provided by the district. Kids who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program also qualify for free or reduced transportation.

If Sierra Gardens closes, students would be sent to Sargeant Elementary School or Crestmont Elementary School. Enrollment for these three campuses has declined about 10 percent over the past five years, while enrollment for the district has increased about 13 percent during that timeframe.

“We do not have enough students to occupy three elementary schools,” Pierucci said.

Sierra Gardens is a Title 1 school and serves a significant number of bilingual and low-income students.

“If we go in this direction, there’s a very good chance Sargeant will become a Title 1 school and additional funding will (go) to Sargeant,” Pierucci said.

He said no teaching jobs will be lost if Sierra Gardens closes, and class sizes won’t be affected. The district hasn’t figured out how to accommodate the Hispanic parents who take English classes at Sierra Gardens but would work to “meet those needs,” Pierucci said.

Parent Karen Erling has a fifth grader at the school.

“Change is always hard,” Erling said. “Personally, I’m glad it’s after my kid is done but I’d hate to see it close.”

The school would become the sixth grade wing for the adjacent Eich campus. This proximity is one of the main reasons administrators suggest closing the Sierra Gardens site. Otherwise, Eich would need about 10 portables — at a cost of about $45,000 each — to accommodate sixth graders, Pierucci said.

The district hopes to start the International Baccalaureate program at Eich to make the campus a destination school.

Pierucci said the district loses 25 to 30 students a year who should be going to Eich for seventh grade but instead leave the district. This is a financial loss for the district.

“We believe if we offer the I.B. program at Eich, those students will go to Eich,” Pierucci said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Roseville City School District informational meetings

What: Presentation on possible reconfiguration of Eich Intermediate School and closure of Sierra Gardens Elementary School

When: 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23 at Crestmont Elementary School, 1501 Sheridan Ave., and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Stoneridge Elementary School, 2502 Alexandria Drive

Info: Call Roseville City School District at (916) 771-1600 or visit www.rcsdk8.org