Can Natomas Schools Be Saved From Closure?

Area parents began rallying over the weekend behind a plan meant to keep a school from closing this year in the Natomas Unified School District.

Whether staff and utility cuts part of the alternative plan are savings that can avert a school closure remains to be seen in a district where $6 million still must be trimmed. District officials warned the decision may not be between closing a school or staff reductions, but instead on implementing both.

“I certainly wouldn’t encourage people to believe that this will necessarily avoid closing a school,” said NUSD board president B. Teri Burns. “These could be additional cuts we make just to make our budget.”

Natomas school district trustees in June 2009 voted to close one school this year and a second in 2011-12, saving an estimated $400,000 per school per year for three years. The district has since undergone a lengthy public process to identify which schools it will consider closing; a decision is set for March.

“Are there other solutions?” school district trustee Bruce Roberts said. “All the decisions we are being forced to make are hurting kids.” 

Parents from a handful of Natomas schools attended an invitation-only meeting Saturday where the proposed money-saving plan now making the rounds was presented by school board member Lisa Kaplan. The proposal calls for cuts to school secretary, custodial and playground assistant jobs in addition to adjusting thermostats district wide for utility savings.

“I firmly believe closing a school will cost Natomas money, not save Natomas money,” said Kaplan. “I don’t think it’s a viable option to close a school.”

According to the Save Natomas Kids website created over the weekend by parents, and e-mails now being circulated in the community, this alternative plan would save the school district $398,000. The goal: to eliminate – or at least postpone – the need to close a school this year.

Natomas parent Ted Link-Oberstar, who authored the proposal, said it will not solve the district’s fiscal problems.

“But what I believe that it does do is enable to the board to proceed with implementing the savings that they already booked, while taking a step back from the school closure discussion to reconsider whether it actually does make sense,” Link-Oberstar wrote THE BUZZ.

Both Burns and Roberts agreed that without additional money coming into the Natomas district, closing schools and several other budget cuts remain on the table. Board members are scheduled to discuss the topic of school closure 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Natomas High School theater.


  1. Good article, Buzz –
    My first instinct in reading the plan was that the Board would close a school AND take the suggested savings from this plan, since they still have a long way to go on the budget. I had been wondering why the plan was so simple, but now I see why – they are just trying to buy more time. Hope it works, and that the Board will see on Wed how much community support our schools have. Numbers can sometimes speak volumes – EVERYONE PLEASE SHOW UP.

  2. Well written Buzz. Thank you.

  3. As long as we are a declining enrollment district with excess capacity at our schools, we are like other districts that can’t afford to keep all of our schools open. And if we continue to have a charter friendly board, then we will continue to bleed students and ADA, and it will continue to get worse and worse. Instead of avoiding the inevitable, either close Bannon Creek and start the K-8 construction that our bond funds are set aside for, or else use the bond funds to improve the condition of our schools that are falling apart. Why do we continue to be so short-sighted in Natomas?

  4. Thank you so much for the article. Hopefully it will bring more attention to something that has a direct impact on all of us. The more people that know there is an alternative plan, the better. We know that the Board may ultimately have to close a school. We are saying, please do the other cuts first, then re-evaluate the budget when the state passes it and look at things. This saves a school which is part of our community.

  5. Have you looked at the numbers the “Save Natomas Kids” organization has put out there? $190,000 for 3.5 site secretaries alone…are you kidding? All they’d have to do is look at the salary schedule on the district web site to know that number is over. They said they took the estimate from the District’s estimated savings, but the posted Budget Recovery plan (under Close Schools on page 9)cites that the TOTAL savings from ALL Classified Staffing Costs (6 classified employees)would be $240,000 (an average of $40,000 per employee). That would mean a savings from their proposed elimination of 3.5 school secretaris would be $140,000instead of the $190,000 stated in their flyer. Also the savings from cutting the custodians they are proposing would be $120,000 not $150,000. They cited they used the “district’s school closure web page;” however, when you go to the Budget Recover document I cited earlier ( it states that $110,000 would be saved in administration costs [from laying-off the school principal] not from the classified lay-offs. If this organization is interested in educating the community, they should be sure their figures are correct. If they are trying to disseminate propoganda to get what they want, then they’re doing a GREAT job.

  6. I thought the meeting was at Jefferson Elementry, has it been changed to Natomas High now?

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