Rose Elementary School will close in the fall if a $6 million levy fails in May, the Roseburg School Board decided Thursday.
After a lengthy discussion that included analyzing various scenarios for closing either Rose or Melrose Elementary, the other top contender for closure, the board voted 4-3 to shutter Rose for the 2013-14 school year if voters turn down the district’s levy in the May 21 election.
The district, which has seen enrollment decline, anticipates saving about $425,000 a year by closing one of the district’s nine elementary schools.
School board members decided Thursday that if the May 21 levy passes, it would not only raise money for curriculum, technology and maintenance, but also save Rose from closing. Several board members reasoned they should honor the wishes of a group called FIRMGROUND for Kids, which emerged last month and said it would campaign for a levy. FIRMGROUND stands for Fir Grove, Rose, Melrose, Green; Opportunities Utilizing New Directions, and group members have urged the school board to keep all nine elementary schools open if the levy passes.
“If the levy passes, I do think we should take school closure off the agenda,” Board member Daniel Endicott said. “It is our obligation to follow the will of the people.”
The levy would cost taxpayers an estimated 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $55.50 a year on a $150,000 house.
The board also agreed that if Rose closes, students who transferred away from their home schools may be forced to return to them to make space for former Rose students.
Board member Paul Meyer said he thought this was the most reasonable scenario.
“Everybody that’s going to an elementary that’s not their home school knows that at some point they may have to go back to their home school,” he said.
District administrators told the board that Rose’s 243 students would likely be divided amongst nearby schools, such as Eastwood, Fir Grove and Fullerton IV. Although it’s one of the closest schools, there isn’t enough room at Eastwood to accommodate all of Rose’s students, they said.
If Rose closes, Eastwood would become the largest elementary school in the district, with more than 400 students, Assistant Superintendent David Hanson said.
Board member Stacy Stiefel said he wanted to hear a recommendation from the district administration before making a decision on which school to close. Other board members said it was unnecessary to seek such a recommendation.
“We are elected to make decisions,” board member Charles Lee said. “It’s really tempting to say, ‘I’d sure like you to make this decision for me.’”
Meyer, Endicott, Stiefel and board Chairman Steve Patterson recommended closing Rose. Lee recommended closing Melrose.
Board members Joe Garcia and Rodney Cotton did not recommend a school to close.
“I won’t be choosing a school and I’m terribly disappointed in this process,” Garcia said. “We don’t need to close a school. When we voted to close a school, we were financially strapped and in a crisis situation. We’re no longer in a crisis situation.”
Meyer proposed the board vote to rescind its decision to close an elementary school in the fall, a suggestion that drew support from Garcia and Cotton. Endicott, Lee, Patterson and Stiefel voted against that proposal.
Endicott recommended the board close Rose in the fall if the levy fails. He, Lee, Patterson and Stiefel supported the motion. Meyer, Garcia and Cotton voted against it.
Superintendent Larry Parsons said the decision on which school to close has been as much a struggle for administrators as for board members.
“The cabinet is split and has the same differing opinions of the board,” he said.
Although he’d previously recommended that the board close a school in the fall, Parsons told the board Thursday it might be better to hold off the decision for a year.
“I have concerns about us making a decision tonight. We don’t know what our enrollment is going to do,” he said. “I think there is a third option to say, ‘We don’t have enough information this year. Let’s wait until next year.’”
Lee said he was still in favor of closing a school next school year.
“No matter what, we still have one more elementary school than is in the best interest of our students,” he said. “I’m still in the opinion that it’s in the best interests to close a school. The levy is not for the purpose of keeping an elementary school open. It’s for meeting certain needs of the district.”
• You can reach reporter Inka Bajandas at 541-957-4202 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.