The Vista (Calif.) Unified District will shutter two neighborhood schools as soon as next year as it faces declining enrollment and aging facilities.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that some parents are concerned about how the closures will affect children's ability to get to school and their access to special magnet programs.
Last month, the school board voted to consolidate Beaumont Elementary, which has 460 students, and Rancho Minerva Middle, which has 530. The board also decided to move one of its magnet middle schools, Vista Innovation and Design Academy, also known as VIDA, to occupy the buildings being vacated by Rancho Minerva.
The closures have raised questions about whether students will be able to get to their new school, especially since the district has recently scaled back transportation. More than 80% of families at Beaumont and Rancho Minerva are considered low-income, which is higher than the district average.
"Unless they factor in how they're going to get each kid to another school, it's going to cause a lot of inequity in our district," said Amanda Remmen, a Beaumont parent.
Vista Unified's enrollment has fallen from about 21,700 students eight years ago to 18,800 in the school year that ended last month. By four years from now, the district projects that it will have dropped to 16,000 students. Demographers have attributed the decline to a falling birth rate and population changes.
In addition to declining enrollment — Vista Unified is also facing higher facilities costs, said Shawn Loescher, the district's chief operations officer.
"We have over $1 billion of facilities that require updating, but we don't have $1 billion," Loescher said.
Beaumont and VIDA were selected as the two sites to shutter because of the poor conditions of their facilities. Beaumont in particular has long had water intrusion problems that have caused mold to grow in its buildings.