Money may delay school closures in San Bruno

A proposal by the San Bruno Park Elementary School District Foundation to raise $250,000 could stave off a school closure in the 2008-09 school year, but it may not be enough to prevent a school closure in years to come.

Due to five years of declining enrollment and $250,000 in deficit spending in the approximately 2,600-student school district, officials there have plans in the works to shut down one if its seven elementary schools come fall 2008.

The district’s annual budget is approximately $16 million annually, according to district figures.

A committee comprising some 60 community members is meeting regularly to discuss how the district should go about picking which school is slated for closure.

In the meantime, some members of the foundation — a nonprofit organization used exclusively to raise money for the school district — are proposing a lofty goal of raising $250,000 in the next year in order to keep a school open.

The district committee isset to bring a list of school closure criteria to the district board in November, and a decision on whether to close a school — and which one it will be — is expected in early 2008, Superintendent David Hutt said.

The district board of trustees this week lent its support to the foundation’s fundraising goal, but a regular source of revenue is needed to keep an extra school up and running for years to come.

“[An extra $250,000] would help the school stay open at least a year,” board trustee Russ Hanley said. “But we can’t say whether we’d be able to keep it open in coming years if we don’t have regular revenue to support it.”

Hutt said the district has lost approximately 350 students in the last five years, a trend that several local school districts are seeing this decade as couples with young children move out of the county, often due to high housing costs.

Seventeen of San Mateo County’s 25 school districts have been seeing declining enrollment over the last 10 years, Hutt said.

Hutt said district staff is in the process of determining how to measure community input on the school closure issue, just as it is with a hefty list of other big-ticket items like reconfiguring the school district’s grade structure and exploring a possible parcel tax in upcoming years to bring in new revenue.

tramroop@examiner.com

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