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If Ripon needs to close a school, which will it be?
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RIPON – What school might be closed if Ripon Unified’s future plans include doing away with one kindergarten- through eighth- grade campus?

Will it be Ripon Elementary, Ripona, Weston, Colony Oak or even Park View?

That’s a decision left in the hands of a soon-to-be-formed committee.

At a special session held Monday at the Ripon High library, the school board agreed to get the process rolling on putting together a group to look at such options as a possible long-term budget solution.

Trustees also voted 5-1 on the class configuration plan for the 2011-12 school year at the primary schools that calls for closing a fourth-grade class at both Ripon Elementary and Weston.

RUSD appears faced with a $2.5 million short fall while no longer receiving $700,000 in state funding for Class Size Reduction.

At stake in the class configuration plan are also eight full-time teaching positions, K-3 closure at a site to be determined, trimming eight primary classes evenly among the K-8 campuses, and no combo classes.

The class configuration plan was tabled from last week’s school board meeting.

“It’s all guess work,” said Superintendent Louise Johnson. “The updates we’re receiving change on a daily basis.

“But we need a financial plan in place to submit to the state (Department of Education).”

Much of the decision by the board had to do with Governor Jerry Brown’s June special election proposal that called for extending taxes for five years being shot down. Johnson, who formerly went by Nan, said that the Governor now appears to be leaning towards an “all cut” budget in Sacramento.

RUSD, in turn, was advised to prepare for a “worst case scenario” in revenue cuts.

“We will know more when the May revise is released next month,” she said.

Trustee Jack DeLiddo provided the “no” vote.

“Two days ago we were still receiving information (from the state),” he said. “That’s not enough time for us to come out and make a hard statement.”

His colleagues agreed on a plan that also included seven furlough days while putting junior high and freshmen sports and other high school programs at risk.

“Losing sports and band would hurt the moral of our students,” said student board member Brandon Petraitis said.

Spared was closure of the school libraries and a $2 per day bus transportation fee.

 The reduction agreed upon by the board came to over $1.8 million. Federal funding from the Jobs Bill – or slightly over $500,000 – brought total closer to covering the budget shortfall.

Chad Huskey, who is the chairman of the Colony Oak Site Council – he also serves on the district’s Advisory Board – agreed with the board’s tough decision.

“I think it was the right move,” he said.

Huskey also took time to research the California State Department of Education’s website on school closure.

“It’s five chapters long,” he said.

Student performance factored into the equation, Huskey noted, with all of the RUSD sites excelling with above “800” scores in the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting exam. Park View, however, ranked No. 1 in the district and No. 6 in the state, were followed by Colony Oak and Weston, respectively, No. 8 and No. 9 in the state.

Trustee Donna Parks believed the time was now to begin looking at a possible school closure. “But we need to work together,” she said.

Johnson indicated that such a closure could open the door for the district to make that site into a magnet school.

The cuts to public education have been ongoing for the past three years. RUSD is bracing for much of the same in the coming years.

“Budgets are difficult, at best,” board President Mike Fisher said. “We have to plan for three years in advance.

“It seems as if every year we’re re-inventing the wheel – there’s no stabilization in our funding.”