Bay Farm School will not enroll any sixth graders in the fall following a decision this week by the Alameda Unified School District board.
Tuesday’s 4-1 vote — Board member Gary Lym dissented — is part of a plan to phase out grades six through eight at the K-8 school mainly because of declining enrollment and the subsequent financial repercussions.
About a dozen people in the school community spoke during the public comment portion of the board meeting, asking the board to delay the reconfiguration for a year or two.
Some were dismayed by the way the board seemed to spring the issue on them.
“There is a rupture of trust happening in our small AUSD community,” said Erica Hartono during public comment.
Years in the making
Board members and Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi said the issue has been a topic of discussion for many years. In 2018, the board voted to forgo a decision on the matter.
But advocates for Bay Farm’s middle school grades argue that many did not know a proposal had been made to eliminate the three grades.
“We owe the community an apology for the absence of sufficient communication on the proposal to phase out the Bay Farm Middle School program beginning in August of 2023,” Scuderi wrote to families on Jan. 12.
“While we have long contemplated this issue internally, our external communications have been lacking and for that I will take responsibility,” Scuderi said.
“I was elected to make these hard decisions.”Heather Little, Alameda Unified School District board president
At least two board members said they needed to make tough decisions such as the Bay Farm School reconfiguration.
“I was elected to make these hard decisions,” said board president Heather Little.
Community member Martin Medeiros suggested the board violated the Brown Act, California’s public meeting law, at a recent public meeting involving discussions about Bay Farm School.
“This is not how a public entity should operate,” Medeiros said.
But on Wednesday, district officials disagreed. The title of the item on the agenda was “AUSD Strategic Plan: Budget Proposals and Scenarios for 2023-2024,” and not General Business as Medeiros suggested.
Not a closure, just a reduction
A few people argued that district officials need to follow the state’s best practices for closing schools.
But administrators said they are not closing Bay Farm School, just eliminating the middle school part of it, so they don’t need to uphold the state’s best practices for closing a school.
Scuderi and the board want to be equitable in delivering school services to the community. The board approved a statement last year that defined equity in part as “the allocation of resources based on need and support for each student’s success.”
It’s different than equality, which means providing the same amount of resources per student, according to the district.
The board took additional action Tuesday night, ending the use of general funds for innovative programs at Amelia Earhart School and Maya Lin School.