The depth of the cuts ultimately made will depend on how deep the state cuts are, trustees said.
Nielsen's closure is in the Dublin trustees' "Group B" of cuts, the second wave that would be made based on final state budget numbers. Group A, the first cuts to be made, includes energy management, and maintenance and supplies. Group B includes Nielsen's closure, plus money for clerical, conferences and software.
Other cuts approved Thursday night include instructional assistants and elementary band and custodial staff; elementary and middle school library services; eliminating middle school athletics, counseling staff, and extra middle- or high school class sections. The last cuts would be made to drama, art, middle school music, varsity sports and the district's contribution to the state's class size reduction program
The district, with the board's backing, in 2006 approved closing Nielsen Elementary and consolidating it with a new school at the current Dublin Elementary site that would open in fall 2009, but reconsidered after strong public opposition. More recently, the district decided to re-evaluate the consolidation. Expecting a $2.4 million to $2.8 million deficit for next year, the board revisited the Nielsen issue and voted 4-1 to close it when the new Dublin Elementary is ready.
The district decided to close Nielsen almost two years ago but reconsidered after strong public protest. Thursday's vote was 4-1; dissenter Jennifer Henry wanted the closure made a lower priority among the various cuts.
Nielsen's closure wasn't the only cut approved late Thursday night, but it drew by far the most attention at the Dublin High library, packed both with supporters and opponents of the closure and consolidation plan.
Debra Krommenhock said the district is not taking into account $40,000 in various installation costs and the $7,000-a-year leases for each of the 10 to 14 portable classrooms that will be used at Dublin Elementary to house the displaced students.
"Frankly, turning Dublin Elementary into a trailer park is wrong," she said.
Others said students would not be safe at an expanded Dublin Elementary because of its proximity to Interstate 680. Students could be endangered by freeway accidents or bad air, critics said.
Terri Dyer, a Nielsen parent who was on the district budget committee that proposed the cuts, said small schools are a luxury the district can't afford. With the closure, the district can be putting more resources to programs such as athletics, band, art and drama, she said.
"We must close a school before we eliminate any programs or staff," she said.
Henry, the only board member who was not on the board at the time of the previous decision to close, said she understands a lot of thought went into the recommended cuts but that the district needs to establish trust.
"It might look like we're using the budget crisis to get this out of the way," she said.
Henry wanted the closure placed in the last of five groups of prioritized cuts, instead of the second as the district staff recommended and the rest of the board adopted. The proposed cuts were ranked in six groups.. Each group is about $600,000.
Superintendent Stephen Hanke said the combined school would not be the largest in the district. He said there are 250 students at Nielsen Elementary, plus 36 special education students. Dublin Elementary has 285, including special education.
And, as with the other proposed cuts, Nielsen's closure would be weighed again down the road. Next will come an environmental review.
The district didn't have an estimate on how much the added classrooms would cost.
Though the other trustees approved the recommendations, board member David Haubert also said he opposed cutting elementary music and middle- and high-school athletics. He also had concerns about closing Nielsen Elementary.
Eric Louie covers education. Reach him at 925-847-2123 or email@example.com.