The Saugus Union School District’s governing board is poised to vote Tuesday night on whether to close the oldest school in the district.
Santa Clarita Elementary School, opened in July 1960, is set to be shuttered as of June of next year should the governing board approve the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting, according to the agenda posted to the district’s website.
“I just want you all to know that the board and the district did not take this lightly,” said board President Katherine Cooper at an Oct. 17 community discussion, “and we’re doing our best to be good stewards with the district’s resources to make sure that your kids have the best experience that they can have.”
According to the agenda, Santa Clarita Elementary has just 169 enrolled students as of August, which is “not of sufficient enrollment to provide optimal educational services and is also financially inefficient.” It added that the school did not accept any transfer students or kindergarten students for this school year.
Current students at Santa Clarita Elementary would have the option of attending any one of the district’s schools, Superintendent Colleen Hawkins said in a phone interview with The Signal on Monday. Should a group of students want to move together, Hawkins said that accommodations would be made to make that happen.
The caveat, Hawkins said, is that the whole school cannot move to one other school.
The three closest schools to Santa Clarita Elementary that the agenda lists are Charles Helmers Elementary School, James Foster Elementary School and Highlands Elementary School. The plan is to not increase school capacity at any one of those three schools by more than 10 classrooms or 25% of the capacity, according to the agenda.
At the Oct. 17 meeting, Hawkins said that parents would be able to provide a first and second choice of schools to the district by Dec. 31. She added that most students would be placed in the school of their choice.
Closing Santa Clarita Elementary would save the district at least $500,000 per year, according to the agenda.
District officials noted at the Oct. 17 meeting that in order for the school to be updated to 1976 standards for earthquake retrofits, as outlined in Assembly Bill 300, the renovations would cost at least half the cost of replacing the campus. According to Nick Heinlein, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, the cost for building a school of the size of Santa Clarita Elementary was previously estimated in 2021 to be approximately $24.8 million.
The main campus building at Santa Clarita Elementary was built in 1961, according to Heinlein.
The district has followed all of the guidelines outlined in Assembly Bill 1912, the agenda states, despite not falling under the definition of a district “under financial distress,” as defined by Education Code section 41329.
As part of the AB 1912 process, the board will also hear a presentation from Joseph Pendalfo from Total School Solutions and Sarine Abrahamian from Orbach, Huff & Henderon on the closing of the school. The presentation, according to the agenda, will include “a review of information presented on Oct. 10, 2023, an FAQ in response to questions received from the community, and next steps in the 7/11 committee process to make recommendations for future use of the property.”
The 7/11 committee would see between seven and 11 community members be responsible for recommending to the board what to do with the campus after it is closed. Hawkins said at the Oct. 17 meeting that the hope is to keep the property in the hands of the district.
“We would like to keep the property because we feel we own it and it’s worth a lot of money,” Hawkins said. “And it’s the one thing you can’t get back, right? Once you sell it, we’re not gonna be able to go out and buy another big piece of property like this for something that we might be able to use it for.”
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Saugus Union School District Education Center, located at 24930 Avenue Stanford, Santa Clarita.