Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) is considering the closure of 10 elementary schools which are well below capacity due to declining enrollment, in order to save money on facilities and staff. While I certainly sympathize with the need to reduce costs in the face of declining enrollment, I think that SCUSD is failing to consider several factors in making this decision. Let me say that many school districts are facing the same challenge; SCUSD is just the current example, and I am not trying to pick on them. I live within SCUSD but work in another school district; I do not have children, but have been an education professional for much of the last 39 years.
There have been a number of articles in the local media about the closures, but the SacBee article on Sunday, January 27 provides a level of detail and addresses several of the challenges.
Why is this a transportation issue? Closure of these schools will eliminate 10 neighborhood schools, which children can by and large now walk or bicycle to. True, many of the students don’t, but they could. In most cases they will not be able to walk and bike to their new school, due to increased distance and the need to cross busy arterial streets. The change will therefore greatly increase the rate of parents driving their children to school at the remaining schools. More congestion and air pollution, and less safety for the students who do walk and bike. I will clearly state two premises:
- Right-sized neighborhood schools have a strong social value that must be weighed along with other considerations.
- All children should be able to walk and bike to school, at least at the elementary level.