In an effort to cut $20 million out of the Long Beach Unified School District’s budget, the school board voted Tuesday evening to close James Monroe Elementary School in Lakewood and eliminate grades six through eight at Burcham School.
All students and teachers will be transferred to other schools in the district, and no layoffs are expected. The closures will save about $3 million next year, according to school board officials.
Located in Lakewood, Monroe Elementary school has been in the community since 1953. But when school ends in June, Monroe Elementary will become the seventh Long Beach school to close since 2008.
Money from voter-approved Proposition 30 will help some save programs, like music and sports, but officials said they still have to consolidate classrooms to close the budget gap.
Parents were disappointed with the board’s decision.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Kristine Myze, who has two children at Monroe Elementary and said there is no nearby junior high for them to attend. “I mean, they have no idea what they’re doing.”
“At the K-8 school, every teacher knows my children by name,” Myze added. “But now, they’re going to go to a junior high where they’re just going to be in the shuffle.”
Parent Timothy Cavanaugh echoed Myze’s suspicion that the board made up its mind before the public meeting.
“It was a preconceived decision,” he said. “They didn’t give us any consideration. They obviously have already made the decision.”
An alumna of Monroe Elementary, Randy Wilson sent his children to the school, as well, and said that was the reason his family moved to the neighborhood.
“It’s a sad day today,” he said. “Bad decision on their part, but I guess we have to take it. … It’s like losing a family member in a way.”
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the 678 students at Monroe Elementary were told their school was slated for closure.
Lisa Dillon said when she told her young sons the impending closure was due to budget cuts, they offered to help.
“They both went into their rooms and brought out their piggy banks and said, ‘Here you can have this. Give it to my teacher and then we can keep our school,’” she said. “It was heartbreaking.”
Now that the closure has been approved, the students and teachers will be transferred to nearby schools, like Cleveland Elementary, and displaced students would have first choice at other schools in the district.
Still, that’s not sitting well with some parents and PTA member Nina Mighaccio was near tears thinking about the closure.
“We bought a house on the corner so she could walk to school and she could have friends live in the neighborhood,” she said. “The whole community thing is why we moved here.”
Long Beach Unified School District has lost about 16,000 students in the past decade as families move out of the area and that, combined with dwindling funds for public education, makes school closures inevitable, said a spokesman for the district.
“We know they love their school and we’re proud of that,” spokesman Chris Eftychiou said earlier in the day before the vote. “We’re going to listen to them and hear them out. If there’s any way to mitigate the situation and make it better for them, we’re going to go ahead and do that.”