High School Consolidation– What You Need to Know

Amira Beck, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, October 28th, there was a board meeting that allowed the public to share their opinion about the idea of consolidating El Molino, Analy, and Laguna into one campus. Toni Beal, our district superintendent, started the meeting with the key question being addressed, “should the board consolidate schools, and what would be the timeline for consolidation?” The meeting began at 6:10, with the first 30 minutes being an informational presentation on what budget constraints have pushed the board to this decision. The next topic, which started at 6:40, was 40 minutes of community questions that the board had the opportunity to answer. At 7:30, the two and a half-hour comment time began, which allowed for community comments. The meeting ended at 9:51 pm.

Jeff Ogston, Chief Business Official for the District, gave a presentation on what has moved the board to this decision. The most pertinent issue is the county-wide decreasing enrollment, and lower birth rates. In previous years, the district has relied on one-time funds from the state, but those are not guaranteed. They have also already made several major budget cuts in the past year such as eliminating the Analy bus routes, reducing the VP position, changing dental and vision providers, and reducing the number of counselors employed. None of these have saved enough money in order to meet the guidelines that the fiscal recovery plan from the Sonoma County Office of Education has required. The fiscal recovery plan mandates that the district must identify a minimum of 2 million dollars in reductions and/or revenue increase by 2022-23. 

Currently, we have a budget of $27,309,877 and a yearly surplus of about 1 million dollars. That being said, our school’s costs for insurance are increasing due to the fires, and other costs have steadily increased as well. A glimmer of hope is that if Prop 15 passes, our district would experience increased funding by 2025-26. There are also other reductions that were considered before deciding consolidation was worthy of exploration. Namely, the idea to change Analy to a 6 period day, moving Laguna onto the El Molino campus, becoming a basic aid district, or unifying with a partner district. If we consolidated by 2021-22, there would be $1,200,000 in savings; if we consolidated by 2022-23 there would still be $800,000 in savings. Jeff Ogston concluded that all students of WSCUHSD could fit on one campus, and budget realities leave very few other options. This would solve all our budget issues.

Some questions and concerns brought up by community members included everything from how to change budget realities to individual family concerns. One parent questioned whether kids in the special education program might feel overwhelmed by this change. Another parent asked if the board had reached out to State Senator Mike McGuire for funding, to which Toni Beal answered that limited contact had been made. A former president of the Analy board of education, Kellie Seringer, asked about the possibility of pushing this decision out and waiting to see if consolidating with another district is a viable option. The Sonoma County District of Education (SCOE) is currently holding a survey on that possibility, which will give results within the next year.

Some ideas that were brought up to improve our school included consolidating both high schools, using one campus as a CTE (career and technical education) school, or improving electives in one school, and giving students the opportunity to move between campuses. There was a second meeting on this topic on Wednesday, November 4th and the final decision will be made on November 18th. This is not a new topic of discussion, but has a very definite possibility of becoming a reality for the next school year.