Ocean View School District will decide next week whether four schools — Circle View, Village View and Golden View elementary schools as well as Spring View middle school — will remain open.
After nearly two hours of discussion during a special meeting Tuesday evening, the OVSD board said it will vote on whether to close, consolidate or repurpose the schools during its regularly scheduled Nov. 14 meeting. The pending decision will culminate a year of surveys and studies conducted by a task force made up of OVSD parents, teachers and other stakeholders amid concerns about dwindling enrollment.
“In retrospect, we should have started these conversations years ago, but we didn’t,” Board President Patricia Singer said Tuesday evening. “We are here now. We have been talking about it and have been open and transparent.”
The board will decide on each of the four schools separately, said Singer, meaning each could have different outcomes.
OVSD — which serves parts of Huntington Beach, Westminster, Fountain Valley and Midway City — is home to more than 6,800 students across 15 schools. The district has had a drop of about 2,600 students since 2013, and it closed Sun View Elementary in Huntington Beach in 2018 because of declining enrollment.
The decision to move forward with a vote next week came after the board was presented with the task force’s 19 recommendations to address dropping enrollment in the district. Those recommendations had been split into four categories — innovative, instructional, financial and property management — and included ideas like leasing out unused property, combining certain elementary schools or opening up Golden View’s petting zoo as a field trip destination for other sites.
On Tuesday, the board considered the financial impact of closing, consolidating or repurposing the schools as well as suggestions to receive additional funds.
Smaller class sizes for the four targeted schools was one such idea to help cut back on costs while also increasing academic achievement.
“Students can speak more and teachers get to have deeper relationships” with smaller classrooms, said Julianne Hoefer, an assistant superintendent at OVSD. And that could ultimately attract more students to the district, she said.
But Trustee Morgan Westmoreland disagreed.
“Although I like the idea of having smaller schools, when you drill down what that means, especially at a middle school level, I think we are doing a disservice to our students,” said Westmoreland. “We put ourselves in the position to start operating small schools, and then a few years down the road, we see the same issues come up that we see now, and we could possibly see the state take over. I don’t want that.”
During an October meeting of the task force, Superintendent Michael Conroy said the district is overstaffed by at least 22 teachers because of the lower student enrollment, costing the district an estimated $2.3-3.5 million.
Trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin said OVSD should “encourage older teachers in the district to retire.”
“I saw that on the (task force’s) report that it said in regards to enticing teachers to retire that the (financial) impact is minimal. I beg to differ. I think if we entice teachers to retire with substantial incentives, we could be successful,” she said.
Trustees Norm Westwell and Westmoreland predicted schools would consolidate.
“I think the writing is on the wall,” said Westmoreland. “I don’t want to be the leader of a district where decisions are made years down the line where it puts our district in financial distress. The information I have in front of me does not constitute us continuing to operate 10 elementary schools and four middle schools with our current population.”
Westwell said: “I don’t think we have done enough to cut the excessive spending that we have done in our district. But it looks like a decision has already been made: We are going to consolidate schools.”
A coalition of Village View Elementary parents is urging the district to opt against consolidating or closing their students’ campus. They have spearheaded a petition that has been signed by more than 1,500 people as of Wednesday afternoon, urging the board not to consider closure.
Village View parent Ryan Joly said he and other parents plan to meet with Westmoreland and Clayton-Tarvin next week to discuss the future of the schools.
Parents of students at the other schools have been outspoken on social media as well. Other petitions have circulated in previous months in attempts to keep the schools open.
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