The combination of possible new school construction if voters pass a summer facilities measure, and an unexpected influx of students prompted district officials to keep Markham open next year to ease the impact on nearby campuses.
Markham was scheduled to close at the end of this school year, as outlined in the district's facilities master plan. Glassbrook and John Muir elementary schools still are on the closure list.
The board adopted the multiyear program in 2005, which was designed to keep the district in fiscal solvency by addressing a steep enrollment decline and closing campuses at Highland, Glassbrook, Markham, John Muir, Peixoto, Shepherd and either Treeview or Bidwell.
Furthermore, the plan has established optimal school sizes and also
revamped the district's attendance boundaries.
Wednesday's school board meeting drew more than 50 students, parents and teachers who hoped to persuade trustees to keep the campuses open to alleviate overcrowding issues.
Earlier this school year, Hayward Unified combined Ruus and Peixoto elementary schools.
"It just hasn't gone well," Alan Pickering-Walters, a librarian at Ruus Elementary, said to trustees. "It has been challenging, because we don't have enough space."
Parents, too, expressed concerns regarding larger campuses.
"Please consider keeping the schools open for the safety of our children," Yolanda Canales, a Glassbrook Elementary parent, said to the board.
Oddly enough, the district decision to keep Markham open for another year poses problems for the district's alternative school of art and science, Faith Ringgold, which is housed on
the same Ward Street property as Markham.
Parents and students from Faith Ringgold were banking on Markham's closure to allow the program to grow.
"We were told Markham would be leaving and that we would have our own space," said student Lexus Moncrease, 12. "It's not fair, because we were told something and now it's not going to happen."
With the governor proposing across-the-board cuts for California to weather a growing budget deficit, Hayward Unified could be forced to trim its budget by $18 million.
Trustee Jeff Cook responded to the concerns Wednesday by highlighting the potential massive cuts and said he was surprised by the "lack of understanding of the dire circumstances we're in.
"The complaints I heard are relatively minor matters, because we're facing a situation where we don't even know if we can preserve the programs we have now," he said. "We're going to be faced with much uglier, serious and more painful decisions. We're doing these things, such as closing schools, to save and generate money so we have anything at all to spend on kids."
Still, some trustees would like toslow the process and rethink the plan to consolidate and close the targeted elementary schools.
"I do have some serious reservations and don't understand some of the gross inequities in the school district," trustee Sarah Gonzales said, which brought applause from the audience. "We do need to balance our budget, but we also need to take care of our kids."
Board members are scheduled to discuss and may take action in postponing the closure of Glassbrook and John Muir at the board's March 12 regular meeting.
Discuss the board's decision on The Daily Review's blog, The HayWord, at http://www.ibabuzz.com/hayword.