Some are despondent, others are angry. Many are both.

West Contra Costa school communities reacted with frustration and fury Thursday at a staff report — to go before the school board next week — that recommends which campuses the district should shutter to save money.

The report, released Thursday afternoon, recommends that the district close El Sobrante and Olinda elementaries in El Sobrante; Castro Elementary in El Cerrito; Lake Elementary in San Pablo; Shannon Elementary in Pinole; and Nystrom Elementary, Adams Middle and Kennedy High in Richmond.

The plan also calls for closing the Gompers and North Campus high school continuation campuses, the Serra and Alvarado adult education sites, a district-owned furniture warehouse and offices at the shuttered Seaview Elementary site.

Coronado Elementary in Richmond, originally on two preliminary closure lists, looks as though it could be spared.

Olinda parent Jennifer Williams said she couldn't believe her campus made the recommendation list after all the fighting parents have done to keep the high-performing school open.

"I'm just shocked," said Williams, parent of a kindergartner.

District officials say they must close campuses to realize $3 million in savings already built into the budget. Closing an elementary school will save $300,000 annually, while closing a secondary school will save about $800,000.


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The decision to close campuses has kept various school communities on edge for months, as some campuses remained on potential closure lists, while others feared they could be targeted. Hundreds have attended meetings — including an estimated 200 that showed up at a school board meeting Thursday night — and several demonstrations and marches have been held. Two more demonstrations are planned over the next two weeks.

"There's a lot of parents who are really frustrated," said Patricia Ponce, parent of a Lake Elementary student. "There's been a lot of community gathering to see how we can prevent the closures."

Under the most recent plan, El Sobrante, Castro, Lake and Shannon elementaries and Adams Middle would close before the 2009-10 school year, while Olinda, Nystrom, Kennedy, Gompers and North Campus would close in 2010-11.

With the exception of Kennedy, which will be used for district offices and alternative school sites, the shuttered campuses would be sold off with proceeds going toward the district's debt.

Students who attend schools that close will move to other campuses as part of a large redistricting plan, and almost all the district's schools will be affected in one way or another.

Most of the schools recommended in the report are not surprises, except for Nystrom, which originally was scheduled to be rebuilt under the district's modernization program.

But the project has been delayed because the state froze funds for modernization, and the school has declined in enrollment by 48 percent since 2003.

Superintendent Bruce Harter said earlier this week that staff based their recommendation on feedback collected from a 279-person committee as well as the results of a consultant's report.

The district faces an $8 million deficit this year and $13.4 million next year.

County Office of Education and state officials have warned that the district could be taken over by the state if it does not reduce deficit spending.

Reach Kimberly S. Wetzel at 510-262-2798 or at kwetzel@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Closing the books
Staff recommendations for West Contra Costa Schools to be closed:
  • 2009-10: El Sobrante Elementary in El Sobrante; Castro Elementary in El Cerrito; Lake Elementary in San Pablo; Shannon Elementary in Pinole; Adams Middle in Richmond
  • 2010-11: Olinda Elementary in El Sobrante; Nystrom Elementary and Kennedy High in Richmond; Gompers and North Campus continuation schools; Serra and Alvarado adult schools.
  • ONLINE: wccusd.net/Fiscal/School_closure/Closure_Recommendation_1-29-09.pdf