Sedona considers closing one of its schools

Declining enrollment, current-year funding cited as reasons to close either Big Park or West Sedona School

Deana DeWitt, SOCUSD director of Curriculum and Instruction, says that a projected $1.4 million shortfall in 2018-2019 is “due to declining enrollment compounded by the challenges of current-year funding.” (Photo by Bill Helm)

Deana DeWitt, SOCUSD director of Curriculum and Instruction, says that a projected $1.4 million shortfall in 2018-2019 is “due to declining enrollment compounded by the challenges of current-year funding.” (Photo by Bill Helm)

SEDONA – Two years ago, the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School District board considered closing Big Park Community School as a cost-cutting measure.

Though the school remained open – thanks in part to an outpouring of the community’s students, their parents and the school’s teachers – the Village of Oak Creek school is again under threat of closure.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Sedona-Red Rock High School gymnasium, the school district’s governing board will hold its second of three meetings to consider a consolidated K-6 curriculum and the closure of either Big Park Community School or West Sedona School.

In an April 4 notice of possible school closure and notice of public meeting, District Superintendent David Lykins stated that “declining enrollment” in the district “resulting in budget reductions which require the restructuring of our schools in order to deliver a comprehensive, viable and equitable curriculum to all students” has led to SOCUSD “considering closing a K-6 school.”

Thursday’s meeting, according to the notice, is an opportunity for the school board to “receive public input regarding reasons for or against the proposed closure.”

At this time, ‘no decision has been made” on which school would be closed – or whether either school would be closed, said SOCUSD Director of Communication Jennifer Chilton.

Dollars and sense

At the SOCUSD governing board’s March 6 regular board meeting, fiscal year 2018-2019 budget projections reflected a $1.4 million “shortfall due to declining enrollment compounded by the challenges of current year funding,” said Deana DeWitt, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

So the school board directed the district’s administration to consider what it would take – and what it would mean – to close either Big Park or West Sedona “and to be prepared to present three structure models,” DeWitt also said.

Following comments from school board members, DeWitt and a planning team will present information about a possible school closure before the public is given an opportunity to approach the board with comments.

In March, DeWitt shared the three structure models, with the option of keeping both schools open and cutting $1.4 million from the budget.

The other two options are to close West Sedona School and bus its roughly 275 students to Big Park Community School, or to close Big Park Community School and bus its roughly 150 students to West Sedona.

Chilton said the Sedona-Oak Creek governing board “feels a strong responsibility for careful consideration of all fiscal planning options for the 2018-2019 school year.”

Sedona-Oak Creek Unified School District’s governing board will meet at 530 p.m. in the gymnasium at Sedona Red Rock High School, located at 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

A copy of the agenda is available at www.sedonak12.org/BoardAgendasMinutes.aspx.

According to Chilton, the governing board’s third meeting to consider a consolidated K-6 curriculum will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 1.

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