Following the failure of a parcel tax measure in May, the Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) is considering closing two schools and consolidating another.
At a Sept. 23 meeting, staff recommended to the board that the district close Regnart and Meyerholz elementary schools and consolidate Muir Elementary School, effective in the 2022-23 school year. Students would be transferred to other district schools; the Mandarin/English immersion program would remain on the Muir campus. Closed school sites would be leased and not sold.
The recommendations don’t sit well with parents whose children attend Meyerholz and Muir, both located in West San Jose.
“It has created huge social unrest and anxiety in the community, because it can potentially lead to middle and high school rezoning,” CUSD parent Yu Zu wrote in an email to this newspaper. “Their action makes the residents in the West San Jose community suffer more in this current pandemic time. “
In fact, staff also recommended continuing to monitor the enrollment at the district’s six middle schools through the 2025-26 school year, and to consider closing a campus if it falls below 700 students.
According to the district, these recommendations come “after more than three years of discussions and deliberations on how to best create district stability and fiscal solvency and address the challenges of declining student enrollment.”
Last fall, a district Citizens Advisory Committee brought school closure recommendations to the board. Based on community feedback, the district elected to pause the closure of schools and hold a special parcel tax election in May. Had Measure A passed, it would have replaced the current $250 parcel tax that expires after the 2022 tax year with a new $398 parcel tax, bringing in $14 million per year for eight years.
“The recommendations are grounded in the district Citizens Advisory Committee’s work in October 2020 and based on the board-approved criteria rubric,” a district statement reads in part.
These criteria include low enrollment, a projected decline in same and whether neighboring schools have the capacity to absorb students from shuttered schools.
The district has lost more than 4,900 students since the 2015-16 school year and, per demographer projections, expects to continue to see a decline in enrollment for the next eight years.
“The decision to close schools is a difficult conversation as it is a very emotional time for our families and staff,” CUSD Superintendent Stacy Yao said in a statement. “CUSD has faced many challenges with the state funding model and the aggressive declining enrollment numbers.”
Parent Zu argues that enrollment could increase when Vallco and other housing projects in development within district boundaries are completed. The district serves students in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Santa Clara, Los Altos and West San Jose.
Zu maintains that student safety should be considered in school closure decisions.
“There are many apartment complexes on De Anza (Boulevard),” he wrote. “Many low-income families live there because they can walk to Meyerholz school. In their discussion of school closure, CUSD never talked about it.”
If Meyerholz closes, Zu added, students will “have to walk further and cross two dangerous streets: Bollinger and Stevens Creek.”
The CUSD board was set to discuss and possibly vote on the proposed school closure at its Oct. 14 meeting, with residents attending virtually. Visit www.cusdk8.org for more information.