The Robstown Independent School District administration has been sent back to the drawing board, after the board of trustees rejected four plans proposed to consolidate campuses in the district.
Declining student enrollment, combined with rising electricity, food and fuel costs, have led district leaders to consider consolidating campuses for a number of years.
A July 2003 Texas School Performance Review conducted by the Texas Comptroller's office recommended the district close one of its campuses as a cost-saving measure.
"With a declining enrollment and a corresponding loss of state funds, the district needs to quickly address deteriorating facilities and excess space that can be very costly for the district to maintain," the report stated. "At the time of the review, district schools had an occupancy rate of 51.44 percent."
Since the 2002-2003 school year, the district has lost an additional 600 students, and Superintendent Roberto Garcia estimated Monday the district is below 50 percent occupancy.
Robstown ISD currently has a student enrollment of 3,400 and operates 7 campuses. In comparison, Calallen ISD has 3,800 students and only 5 campuses, and Tuloso Midway has 3,200 students and only four campuses, according to information provided by the district.
In October, the district formed a more than 20-member committee made up of school administrators and parents to evaluate and make recommendations on four proposals for consolidating schools in the district.
The proposed plans considered by the committee included consolidating all four elementary schools into one facility, but that plan was rejected by the committee.
A second plan proposed that the district consolidate all elementary students to three campuses, San Pedro, Lotspeich and Ortiz. That plan was also rejected by the committee.
A third plan would have assigned pre-k students through fifth grade to San Pedro and Lotspeich, with pre-k through first grade students at Hattie Martin and second grade through fifth grade students at Ortiz Intermediate. Concern over placing pre-k students with fifth grade students led the committee to reject that proposal, officials said.
A fourth proposal recommended the district place pre-k through first grade students at Hattie Martin, pre-k through fourth grade students at San Pedro and Lotspeich and second grade through fifth grade students at Ortiz.
That plan would bring $520,000 in savings to the district, with $120,000 saved in electricity costs and $400,000 saved in positions that would be eliminated.
All four plans recommended the closure of Salazar Elementary.
The fourth proposal was approved by the committee in a 14-2 vote in January and was recommended to the board of trustees at the board's Jan. 20 meeting.
All four proposals were rejected in a 4-3 vote, with Board President Adolfo Lopez, Vice-President Robert Tapia, Secretary Richard Gonzalez and Pablo Avila voting against the proposals and board members Jerry Gonzalez, Eva Orona and Rosendo Espinoza voting in favor of closing Salazar Elementary School.
On Monday, board member Pablo Avila said he agreed that a consolidation of schools is necessary, but was dissatisfied with the level of detail in the proposals to the board.
"I agree that we have too many schools for the amount of students that we have," Avila said. "I was hoping the administration would come up with a better plan than they did, something that would convince me that this was the best way to go."
Avila said he was also disappointed only two individuals representing Salazar Elementary were placed on the committee.
"I think the committee should be made up of only Salazar teachers and parents," Avila said. "I don't think it should have anything to do with the other schools."
Superintendent Garcia said Monday the committee was a diverse representation of the entire district.
"We had administrators and parents represented from every campus," Garcia said. "I don't know what else to do."
Garcia also said change is needed quickly, not just to save money but also because of safety issues with the Salazar Elementary School facility.
"When we moved the second grade to Hattie Martin, that was to close off what we felt was a dangerous area (at Salazar)," Garcia said. "So we closed half the campus."
In addition to the three wings that have been abandoned at Salazar, the district also has 12 open classrooms at Seale Junior High and will have two empty classrooms each at the new Lotspeich and San Pedro campuses.
Now that the board has rejected the proposals presented by the committee, Garcia said the issue is dead until he receives additional instructions from the board.
"We are going to comply with their request and leave the campuses open," Garcia said. "If they want to reconsider later on, we'll revisit it."