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Closing schools no longer big money saver

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POSTED June 6, 2009 2:50 a.m.
There was a time closing Lathrop High and shuttering New Haven and Nile Garden schools could have saved Manteca Unified over $2 million.

That’s not the case anymore.

Budget cuts put in place so far – roughly $23 million – include much of the savings that would have been incurred by cutting vice principals as well as administrative and classified support staff.  Closing an elementary school today wouldn’t probably even save $100,000 as the support staff and teachers would have to be transferred to where the students move. There are also added busing costs to consider.

As for Lathrop High, the savings associated with it have dwindled as well.

Even if it could save hundreds of thousands of dollars, Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer said the likelihood of that happen is extremely slim.

“It would take us years to recover from closing Lathrop High,” Messer said.

Messer noted that Lathrop High was opened because it was a sound decision based on education objectives at the time. Unlike an elementary school, closing a high school would send severe ripples through the community.

Messer said a high school is identified strongly with the community it serves.

The potential scenarios involving closing elementary schools that were advanced in January and rejected by the school board were:

• Close either Nile Garden or Veritas and have the bulk of students sent to the campus that stays open.

• Close either New Haven or Joshua Cowell and send the bulk of students to the school that remains open.

As things stand now, no school will close for the upcoming school year although there will be 209 less teachers, 21 less administrators, nine less administrative support staff and 121 classified jobs left vacant.

Since mid-May with the failure of the budget initiatives in the special election and revised deficit figures based on sales tax receipts, the shortfall the district was facing jumped from $23.9 million to $32.7 million. The portion of the federal stimulus aid for education that was unrestricted that was earmarked for California came to $6 million. That, however, was wiped out from a cut to the current level of state funding for the balance of the fiscal year ending June 30. The $6 million will now allow the district to make its payroll after the state cut funding by almost an equal amount
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