Ravenswood district proposes closing two schools

A slide from a presentation interim superintendent Gina Sudaria gave at Thursday night's school board meeting.
A slide from a presentation interim superintendent Gina Sudaria gave at Thursday night's school board meeting.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Ravenswood City School District last night (Dec. 5) unveiled its plan to close Brentwood Academy and Willow Oaks schools next fall, a plan that would affect about 700 students.

• Brentwood students would be transferred to Costano Elementary, and

• Willow Oaks students would go to Belle Haven Elementary.

Interim superintendent Gina Sudaria said she understands parents’ and teachers’ concerns, adding that while students can easily adjust to moving, parents and teachers may have a harder time.

“Kids are resilient,” Sudaria said. “It’s the adults who have to model that resiliency.”

About three dozen parents, volunteers and teachers attended last night’s meeting.

Nicole Sbragia, a parent whose son attends Belle Haven, said she felt it is unfortunate that Sudaria and students were being put in this position. “This is something that should have been addressed under previous leadership,” Sbragia said.

Sophia Valencia, whose son attends Willow Oaks, said, “My biggest concern is about the after school program, since I work a full time job.”

Families leaving district

Sudaria said the district needs to close two schools in order to help close a $1.35 million funding gap. She cited declining enrollment as the reason for the lack of funding. Poor test scores have caused parents to pull their kids out of the Ravenswood schools and put them into charters.

“With fewer schools, we can give more money to each student … this district needs to be a place where Tinsley families want to come back,” Sudaria said, referring to the volunteer transfer program in which Ravenswood students are transferred to the Palo Alto Unified School District as part of a desegregation settlement.

When considering which schools to close, Sudaria said she and her employees prioritized location, the number of students, facility size and special programs such as maker spaces and mental health support. Sudaria noted that Brentwood requires the most renovation of all the elementary schools, and a majority of Willow’s students already ride the bus to school and thus are least likely to be disrupted by the closure.

Mergers rather than closures

According to Sudaria, once the plan is enacted, parents of students at the two schools would still be able to apply to transfer to other schools. Despite this, Sudaria said the plan more closely resembles a merger rather than a simple closure.

Ronda White, president of the Ravenswood Teachers Association and a teacher at Belle Haven, said she thinks district administrators carefully considered each scenario. “Logically, (the proposal) makes sense,” White said. “The district has to be fiscally solvent.”

Next week, Sudaria will gather feedback from two of the affected schools, visiting Willow Oaks on Monday and Brentwood on Tuesday.

The district board will discuss the closures tonight at 7:15 p.m., as well as next week during its regular board meeting on Thursday. The board will vote on the closures on Jan. 9.