The Board members who supported the closures - and Superintendent Jonathon Raymond - said they're closing the schools because the number of students in the district continues to drop, and they don't have enough students to support the same number of schools. But some parents question that, and say they expect the schools being closed will be sold and re-opened as charter schools.
The board vote split 4-3 in favor of the closures. Trustees voted to close three fewer schools than originally proposed. Superintendent Jonathan Raymond suggested Susan B. Anthony, Bret Harte and James Marshall be removed from the list due to new housing developments.
The seven schools that will close are: Washington, Maple, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim, Mark Hopkins and Clayton B. Wire. The board will decide whether to close one additional school next month.
Matt Muller's 8-year old twin boys attend James Marshall. He's relieved - but says the other closures will affect the entire community. "Closing a school down is going to decrease property values and on top of that, vacant schools are magnets for stuff like graffiti and crime," he said.
Many parents are very angry. Last night's meeting stretched more than six hours, and went until after midnight. More than 100 people lined up to speak. There was booing - and cheering - when parents spoke.
Many parents don't like the process used to choose which schools to close. Matt Muller has 8-year old twin boys who attend James Marshall, one of the schools taken off the list. He said he doesn't feel his school is safe for long and opposes the other closures. He said they'll drive kids out of the district.
"Some of the schools that they're going to re-assign kids from other schools to are worse than the schools they're in right now," Muller said. "That should be the criterion they should be using. They should be looking at not just what schools don't have enough students in them.
"They should be looking at what schools are failing, what schools are not cutting it academically and how costly the school is to keep open."
Elizabeth Esparza was one of the more than 100 who signed up to speak at the standing-room only meeting. Her two children attend one of the schools taken off the list. She calls the closures "shameful" - but says they also present an opportunity.
"My goal is that, to unite more parents because we as parents have more rights than any of those parents with their titles and their paychecks. This is our time, to make a great change. Not just in them stopping our closures but also in the type of education they give our children as well," Esparza said.
Max Mendoza, a concerned community member, said: "When you close a school down, it's just like you're telling the parents, we don't care."
Next month, the board will decide whether to shut down Tahoe Elementary or Mark Twain Elementary. And some parents say they plan to sue the district. The savings from the closure of these seven schools is expected to be about $1.5 million per year.