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Viewpoint: It’s time to right-size our school district

It’s been six years since the meltdown of community support for Measure CL. Since that time, what has changed?

There are currently 7,065 students attending Claremont Unified School District schools in 2016; in 2010, the district had 7,036 students.

Interdistrict transfer students were around 17 percent (1,183 students) in 2000. In the 2016/2017 school year, the district has almost 25 percent IDTs or 1,754 students.

CUSD has loaded IDTs into the lower performing schools and is now blaming the teachers for the low-performing test scores. The chart will show that high-performing schools like Sycamore and Chaparral have very low or no interdistrict transfer students, but the Mountain View, Oakmont and Vista student populations are at nearly half or more transfer students.

We now have almost 25 percent of students in the district living outside of Claremont—1 in 4—but we know it’s probably higher.

Also note that CUSD staff have placed IDTs in the lowest performing schools (at the elementary level), burdening the teaching staff year after year with complex issues that go beyond just academics. The administration and complacent school board continually beat down these schools and staff for low performance on standardized tests, but they refuse to ease the burden they have placed on the schools’ staffs. Why don’t they distribute the IDTs equally among all of the elementary schools?

Our district has continually added more staff to accommodate this growth in IDTs. Why? We have more than 50 trailer classrooms and CUSD wants to add more and replace most of the existing ones. They just added another trailer classroom at Sycamore, so Claremonters fleeing the higher IDT schools with lower test scores can seek refuge. Claremont is segregated and proud of it.

CUSD schools had around 5,400 kids in 1980. That number rose to 6,200 students in 1990, then to 6,600 in 2000. Today, we have 7,065, of which 1,754 are IDTs and, in reality, I’m sure there are many more students we don’t track. At this pace, we will surely be at about 33 percent transfer students districtwide in five to seven years. But what is our district’s answer? We need $58 million (with a cost of over $100 million for 30 years, and lest we forget we still owe almost $40 million on Measure Y/additional loans and a looming $135 million on Measure W). 

Perhaps it is time to right-size our schools. A well thought-out plan could look to reduce CUSD’s dependence on bonds by doing away with the trailers, which could potentially save $10-$20 million, allowing us to put resources to better use by updating our existing infrastructure. This is a plan we all could get behind.

The plan could start next year, and is as easy as not accepting IDT first graders (100 kids) for one year. Then every year after for 12 years (that’s 1200 kids over 12 years).

We wouldn’t have to downsize our teaching staff. Through natural attrition like retirement and transferring, we would be able to accomplish the rightsizing. We wouldn’t have to kick out children who are already enrolled in schools. This would also solve the trailer problem; By reducing 100 kids per year, we could remove three trailers per year.

I am a 1982 Claremont High?School graduate and a father to four kids in the district, all of whom have had outstanding experiences with teachers and staff at Sumner, Sycamore, El Roble and CHS.

 

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