California School Districts to Close Schools Due to Declining Enrollment

California School Districts to Close Schools Due to Declining Enrollment

An empty elementary school playground in a file photo in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Aug. 21, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

11/15/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Two Southern California school districts recently moved to close schools due to declining enrollment, including a school board in the City of Industry in Los Angeles County, which voted to close several of its elementary school campuses—a move that sparked backlash among some of the district’s community members.
The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District’s education board voted 3-2 to close Bixby, Sunset, Del Valle, and Los Robles Academy elementary schools during a meeting Nov. 9.
Trustees said the closures were necessary due to drops in the number of children enrolling in the schools.
The district has seen a 12 percent enrollment decline over the past five years—from 19,642 in the 2017-18 school year to 16,206 in 2022-23, according to state education database DataQuest.
But district officials said during the meeting that they predict it will lose another 25 percent of its current students by 2028—reaching fewer than 12,000 by that time.
The closures are controversial among the school’s community, drawing a crowd of about 150 people to the board meeting that began at 6:30 p.m. and lasted until the early morning hours of the next day.
At one point, the passionate crowd prompted trustees to call a recess, during which district police called for some outside to disperse due to unlawful assembly.
Many parents and students urged the board to reconsider the closures, saying such would disrupt student learning and cause transportation difficulties.
Some also complained district officials were not listening to the community.
“We’re here ... because we’re not being heard,” one public commenter said. “It’s very clear. You’re moving forward on this process very quickly. And you’re shutting the community out. You can see it here.”
A student who spoke during public comment said that closing his school means he must walk a longer distance to another, and that he was scared for his safety.
“That makes me nervous,” he said. “I am used to walking with my other friends. You guys need to think about all the people that work as well as how dangerous it can be. You don’t close down my school.”
The closures are part of a reconfiguration plan by the district to address the enrollment declines, according to officials.
Under the plan, students from the four closing elementary schools will be transferred to others within the district.
It also includes transferring students from six other elementary and middle schools to others in the district, although it does not provide further details or a possible timeline.
District Supt. Alfonso Jimenez told The Epoch Times in a statement that the reconfiguration plan, effective at the start of the 2024-25 school year, does “not include the high schools, no properties are proposed to be closed or sold, and there will be no layoffs due to reconfiguration.”
After seeing the state’s school enrollment drop six percent since 2007 and that it’s “projected to fall even more steeply over the next decade,” Mr. Jimenez said the district created a School Reconfiguration Committee to study enrollment projections in their district and “make recommendations to align its resources accordingly.”
He also said class sizes will continue to follow state guidelines and remain at current levels, and reconfigurations will not impact services provided to district students who receive special education.

Huntington Beach

Another school district in Huntington Beach in Orange County also voted to close a middle school at a board meeting on Nov. 14.
The Ocean View School District will shut down Spring View Middle School and move students to other schools in the district, while several elementary schools that faced closure will stay open, according to school officials.
Trustee Norm Westwell said at the meeting that regardless of the vote, “We’re still going to have a declining enrollment problem. We’re still going to have some fiscal issues that we’re all going to have to work through, so it’s not going to be over. It’s going to be continuing, and we have to address these issues. We should have addressed them a long time ago.”
According to a report by the district, the financial impact of closing the middle school is projected to save around $2.9 million over three years and approximately $5.8 million by the year 2030.
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

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Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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