In a split vote this week, the Long Beach Unified Board of Education decided to eliminate the middle school–grade offerings at Gompers and Hudson K-8 schools beginning in fall of 2021.
Gompers, which is in Lakewood, and Hudson, which is in West Long Beach, each have a few hundred middle school students. But those who are returning for seventh and eighth grade in fall 2021 will be relocated to other LBUSD middle schools, with priority placement.
The schools will be converted from kindergarten through eighth grade campuses to traditional K-5 elementary schools.
Two weeks ago, a district official set the stage for the move with a presentation to the board noting the higher cost of running K-8 schools.
“Our recommendation is to eliminate middle school programs at those schools for next school year,” said Middle School/K8 Assistant Superintendent Christopher Lund. He cited the higher cost of having smaller class sizes and additional personnel on each campus to run the smaller programs.
“This is going to be an ongoing issue for us with our budget climate and budget uncertainty,” said LBUSD Boardmember Juan Benitez.
The district will continue to operate K-8 schools at Cubberley, Muir, Newcomb, Powell, Robinson and Tincher—at least for now.
Before their vote Tuesday, board members heard several call-in testimonials from parents requesting that they keep the programs, or at least phase them out by not accepting new students over the next two years. The parents who spoke were convincing enough that Board President Diana Craighead cast a rare vote dissenting with her colleagues. She was the lone “nay” vote on the question of whether to cut the programs, which ultimately passed 4-1.
“I’ve heard the effect it’s going to have on my constituents in Lakewood and I can’t in good conscience support it,” said Craighead.
Parents cited a variety of reasons they wanted the programs to remain intact, including child care for families with students in grades 6-8 as well as elementary students who they want to keep on the same campus. Others mentioned the schools’ proximity to their houses, and the preference of having a smaller middle school enrollment as opposed to the traditional middle school campuses, which can range from a few hundred students to close to 1,500.
Gompers parent Mathew Troncao left an emotional message.
“As a parent in the LBUSD, I feel this is quite possibly the worst time to consider this type of action,” he said. “During these unprecedented times, stability and support is one of the most important things to children. … The last thing our children need to deal with is facing the fact that they will go back to school at a new school, without the friends, teachers, and faculty that they have grown to know and love.”
Troncao also brought up that while Lund made a presentation at the previous board meeting, a message to Gompers parents about the vote at this week’s board meeting wasn’t sent until the day before. Messages about the proposal and impending vote were also not posted to the schools’ websites until the day prior to the decision.
“I feel it’s divisive and devious that this business item is being brought before the LBUSD Board of Education so quickly without proper notice to students, parents, teachers and faculty,” he said.
Still, with the district facing a potentially nine-figure reduction in its budget over the next four years in its state-allocated funding, the board opted for the cost savings.
“We understand that schooling is a personal issue for parents, and always has been,” said Boardmember Felton Williams. “As a board member, there’s a responsibility to look at the bigger picture and the financial constraints.”
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