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Roseville parents launch petition opposing closure of Sierra Gardens

Elementary school may close in 2013 following vote by board of trustees
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Parent Nicole Goss approached Sierra Gardens Elementary School on a recent Friday afternoon to pick up her child, unaware of the potential fate of her neighborhood school.

She was greeted by Student Site Council Vice President Esther Duarte who explained the situation: The 55-year-old campus might close as an elementary school in 2013 and make room for sixth graders who would attend Eich Intermediate School, which currently only has seventh and eighth graders.

Some parents - and not just from Sierra Gardens - have geared up for a fight and are speaking out against the proposed change.  

Roseville City School District administrators support the reconfiguration plan as a way to address declining enrollment at three elementary schools in central Roseville, and allow Eich to better serve students.

"We're looking to bring (all the middle schools) together so we're offering the same programs for our students," said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Gary Callahan, during an informational meeting in mid-January.

The board of trustees will likely vote on the item during the Feb. 16 meeting.

"(The district is) rushing into this decision," said Stoneridge Elementary School parent Colene Jenkins. "I urged them to look at other options, and to involve the parents, teachers and community members in the decision."

She's collected nearly 100 signatures on a petition asking the district to reconsider the plan.

'That's not appropriate'

If Sierra Gardens closes, those children will be relocated, primarily to Sargeant Elementary School with some to Crestmont Elementary School.

Sierra Gardens parents say their school successfully serves educationally and economically disadvantaged students, and they worry other campuses aren't equipped to handle this type of population.

"They're taking a perfectly operational school that is succeeding and shutting it down for its property. That's not appropriate," said Site Council President Celeste Bates.

Sierra Gardens is a Title 1 school, which means it has a large number of low-income students and gets extra funding from the state of California.

About 58 percent of the students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, according to the 2011 Academic Performance Index by the California Department of Education. About 33 percent of the student body is Hispanic or Latino.

Despite experiencing a drop in 2011 API scores for Hispanic/Latino, English learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroups, Sargeant Elementary School's scores remain higher than Sierra Gardens in those three categories.

Crestmont Elementary School has seen a sharp decline in its 2011 API scores for those categories, and its score is significantly below Sierra Gardens' for the Hispanic/Latino subgroup.

Of the district's 13 elementary schools (not including Woodbridge, which is K-3), Catheryn Gates had the highest overall API score last year at 923 and Cirby Elementary School had the lowest at 791. Sierra Gardens had the second lowest score at 808.

Not ready for middle school

Some Stoneridge parents are upset with the possibility of Eich Intermediate School turning into a sixth through eighth grade campus.

"We want our kids to continue to attend Stoneridge for sixth grade in an elementary school environment," Jenkins said. "(We) do not want our 10 and 11-year-old sixth graders mixed in with the 13 and 14 year olds. We do not think they are developmentally ready to handle the peer pressure, bullying and be exposed to the kinds of topics that teenagers frequently discuss."

They don't want their children pushed to grow up too fast, she said.

Eich Principal Marc Buljan told the Press Tribune that most educators "believe in the sixth through eighth model and the benefits it gives."

Bates said some Sargeant parents don't support the change either. She attended an informational meeting at Sargeant on Jan. 19 and said many parents there expressed concern about their campus becoming a Title 1 school, which will likely happen if they acquire Sierra Gardens kids, according to Sargeant principal Teri Seaman.

"We are not wanted there and we are succeeding here," Bates said.

Parent Darlene Guzman has a second grader at Sierra Gardens. He transferred after failing at a school in another district.

"I brought him here and the school has helped him so much," Guzman said. "I couldn't ask for more."

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

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2011 API scores/campus demographics

Sierra Gardens (285 students included)

Overall score: 808 (down one point from previous year)

Hispanic/Latino subgroup: 769 (up 47 points)

English learners: 741 (up from 700)

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 785 (up 15 points)

Percentage of Hispanic/Latino students: 33 percent

Percentage of English learners: 27 percent

Percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students: 58 percent

Sargeant Elementary School (309 students included)

Overall score: 876 (down 17 points from previous year)

Hispanic/Latino subgroup: 816 (down 38 points)

English learners: 788 (down two points)

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 815 (down 36 points)

Percentage of Hispanic/Latino students: 14 percent

Percentage of English learners: 10 percent

Percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students: 28 percent

Crestmont Elementary School (346 students included)

Overall score: 880 (down 19 points from previous year)

Hispanic/Latino subgroup: 735 (down 44 points)

English learners: 739 (down 62 points)

Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 783 (down 48 points)

Percentage of Hispanic/Latino students: 15 percent

Percentage of English learners: 8 percent

Percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students: 31 percent

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Roseville City School District board meeting

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16

Where: District office, 1050 Main Street

Info: For the agenda, visit www.rcsdk8.org