Where do we go from here? Pleasant Ridge Union School district staggers under declining enrollment
Declining enrollment in Pleasant Ridge Union School District has placed the fate of Pleasant Ridge School in the balance.
Out of the four schools in the district, Pleasant Ridge School is most imperiled by waning enrollment because its student population is dwindling most rapidly. In addition, its small physical facility would be least capable of housing more students should a merger occur, said district Superintendent Linda Rooney.
But parents are upset, saying school officials should have started addressing the declining enrollment at least a couple of years ago and involved parents early on.
“It’s not just a bottom line for us, and our children are not just only numbers,” said Lauretta Muzio, president of the Parent’s Club at Pleasant Ridge School. “This is their whole world we are talking about closing down.”
A recent analysis of the district sites shows buildings are under-utilized. The district needs to do two things, Rooney said: “Reduce the overall cost of operation and stimulate enrollment. In order to address both these two issues, the concept of consolidation of school sites must be addressed.”
There are 109 fewer kindergartners this year than current eighth graders districtwide, Rooney said. By the school year 2008-09, Pleasant Ridge Union school district could lose about 225 students.
“For every 100 students we lose, our revenues decrease by $530,000,” Rooney added.
Already, the school district has cut about five teachers for the 2007-08 school year, Rooney said. But more positions could go as student numbers continue to slide.
“We all understand the money issue,” parent representative Muzio said. “But I think (administrators) handled this very badly. I personally called (Rooney) three times this school year alone and asked her if the school was in jeopardy, but she dismissed it as a rumor.”
Efforts to reverse the trend
The school district is trying to find ways to keep Pleasant Ridge School open, and recently held two public meetings to brainstorm ideas.
District board members plan to form a sub-committee including parents, teachers, administrators and school staff, to find solutions, Rooney said.
The school district has also launched some marketing strategies.
“We have launched a special brochure that highlights all the special offerings from schools in the district,” Rooney said. “The brochure can be found in every school, the district office and on our Web site, www. pleasantridge. k12.ca.us.”
Though nothing has been decided for sure, the prospect of closing Pleasant Ridge School is a difficult one, Rooney said.
Derek Cooper, principal of Pleasant Ridge School, looked at the possibilities that could come from other options to keep the school option.
“I like the way the district is handling the situation – looking at ways to market the school district and not just concentrating on closing the school,” Cooper said.
But the probability of a closure in the coming years is dampening morale, he added.
“Children have their lives at home and their lives at school – those are their only two worlds. So (as parents), we look at it both ways,” Muzio said.
To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4229.
Declining student numbers in the Pleasant Ridge Union School District
School Present Projected
Pleasant Ridge School (K-5) 249 215
Cottage Hill School (K-5) 466 427
Alta Sierra School (K-5) 355 318
Magnolia School (6-8) 742 627
Source: Linda Rooney, superintendent of Pleasant Ridge Union School District
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