Arguing that the district's enrollment predictions are inaccurate, more than 100 parents and taxpayers made their case at a marathon public hearing Wednesday night for keeping Peebles Elementary school open.
Peebles supporters also contended that closing the school would have a negative impact on elementary students throughout the district. They made their case at a hearing that began at 7 p.m. and ended more than seven hours later at 2:21 a.m.
At that point, approximately 100 people remained in the audience, according to one parent who attended.
Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gualtieri was the first to speak, detailing his reasoning for closing the school.
Gualtieri said the district has been studying the issue for more than two years, and evidence points to declining enrollment and over capacity at the elementary school level. He argued (see video) that closing Peebles would allow the district to operate more efficiently and preserve important programs that might otherwise be threatened by a projected $5.7-million deficit.
Parents then got their turn to present their case, led by organizers of the community group Save NA schools.
Tara Fisher, a key member of the group, presented evidence (see video) that indicated elementary enrollment in the district had actually increased. She said closing Peebles would result in larger class sizes in the district's other six elementary schools.
Other parents presented a variety of arguments against the closure. Many also criticized the board for its financial oversight and its refusal to set up a community task force to study the issue, despite a petition request bearing more than a thousand signatures. (see video)
A final decision is months away. State law prohibits the board from taking a vote on the issue until May 1.
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