Closing the Hills responsible way to balance the budget

By Suzanne Hall

Torrey Hills mom

Recently a group of parents from the “Save Our Schools” (SOS ) coalition wrote a letter in which they argued that closure of Del Mar Hills Academy is not a good option for the Del Mar Union School District to consider. However, their logic is flawed in some significant ways.

First, their statement that “closing a school will not resolve the budget crisis” in the DMUSD is a short-sighted perspective that would seem to advocate that unless a closure can ameliorate every last dollar in the projected deficit, we should not consider it.

What the SOS parents fail to acknowledge is that a school closure would go a long way toward providing substantial cost savings for the DMUSD. The 7/11 committee’s own documents declare the savings in administrative salaries and benefits of closure is a MINIMUM of $394,000, and is a RECURRING savings. It would be prudent for the district not to eliminate a large cost savings vehicle just because it does not cover the deficit in full.

Another mistake made in the SOS letter is to imply that because the Hills has been a high performing, award-winning school it should be excluded from consideration from school closure. We are fortunate that many DMUSD schools are decorated for their excellence. Further, since this pattern of excellence is evident district wide, despite a variety of school configurations, it is clear that the crucial elements of our quality education are the students, teachers and families — a formula not significantly degraded by a school closure.

It is time to implement Proposal B, which closes Del Mar Hills Academy. This proposal would locate all the district offices at the Hills site. Superintendent Sharon McClain has indicated it is highly desirable to have a centralized location for these facilities. It eliminates the need for joint use at any other school site in the district, so schools can maintain their focus on the students. It allows the district to add more office or maintenance space down the road without needing a process as contentious as another 7/11 committee (would we really want to go through this again?). Finally, it maintains all green space throughout the district in approximately its current configuration, allowing community use for Little League and soccer practice to continue.

Our school district extends across the I-5 to the high-growth areas of the east 56 corridor and the southern plateau of the district boundaries. The board of trustees should not force the students at the largest schools, representing the largest proportion of the district’s student population, to suffer from deficit-driven decisions to cut back on essentials so that a small segment of the district population can keep its local school. It is paramount that they prioritize budget issues and honor the well being of the district as a whole.