Board decides final fate of Sylvan Middle School

Updated Nov. 19, 7:29 a.m.–
In a 4-0 vote Tuesday night, San Juan Unified School District board members made the controversial decision to move students from Sylvan Middle School over to the adjacent Citrus Heights Elementary campus in 2016, rejecting an alternative proposal to rebuild the aging school for an estimated cost of $44 million.

Prior story, updated Nov. 18, 11:15 a.m.–
San Juan Unified School District board members are set to take final action Tuesday night on the superintendent’s controversial recommendation to move students from an aging Sylvan Middle School campus over to a modernized Citrus Heights Elementary facility, and move existing elementary students over to a consolidated K-5 school at Carriage Drive Elementary.

Sylvan Middle School in Citrus Heights. Photo credit: Luke OtterstadThe proposal has drawn fire from parents who advocate rebuilding Sylvan school, with about a dozen people speaking out against the superintendent’s recommendation at an October board meeting. They have also brought the matter up during public comment at several city council meetings, emphasizing Sylvan’s history in the community and citing concerns about displacing students — particularly those with special needs.

Highlighting declining enrollment and an estimated rebuild cost of over $44 million, Superintendent Kent Kern has rejected the rebuild proposal in favor of his modernization-and-consolidation plan — a plan estimated to cost less than half the amount to rebuild the school, according to recommendation documents included in the Board’s October 28 agenda packet.

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The proposed $18.3 million modernization at Citrus Heights Elementary would provide for additional facilities, including four new science labs, a music room and restrooms. It would also include interior and exterior modernization, expansion of parking and drop-off areas, and several other facility updates, according to Board documents.

Board members have not revealed how they would ultimately vote, but recently re-elected board member Greg Paulo expressed some skepticism as to the accuracy of the numbers — citing past experience with San Juan High School renovation estimates, according to the October 28 meeting’s draft minutes. His colleague Saul Hernandez commented that the school would not be closing, but rather moving “200 yards” over to the Citrus Heights Elementary campus.

If approved, consolidation of the two elementary schools would begin with the 2015-16 school year, and Sylvan students would move over to the nearby modernized Citrus Heights Elementary beginning with the 2016-17 school year, according to the recommendation on the November 18 meeting agenda. Existing Sylvan school facilities would either be demolished or used for other District programs and services.

Discussion about a possible closure of Sylvan began after the school received a “D-” grade from a District-wide DLR Group facility assessment.  The report also found around “$1.5 billion in ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ projects” across the District, in addition to $400 million in ongoing projects.

Editor’s note: for more background on the Sylvan controversy, see prior story here: Sup’t to recommend District close, move Sylvan school

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