The reconfiguration of Sebastopol School District's three campuses came into clearer focus this week as officials voted to make Brook Haven Middle School a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school next fall and prepare a portion of Park Side Elementary for sale or lease.
Officials are facing a $500,000 budget deficit and have turned to using under-capacity campuses to generate revenue.
District officials voted last month to close Pine Crest Elementary School because of steadily declining enrollment across the district, but a decision about where the school's 200 students will go next year wasn't made until Thursday night.
"We are creating a K-8 at Brook Haven," Superintendent Liz Schott said.
How the new school will be organized — both the physical space and the curriculum and schedule — will be the task of a transition team that will begin meeting in January, according to school board president Deborah Drehmel.
It is undecided whether the middle school students will adopt the multi-age format employed at Pine Crest. The multi-age format clusters students in kindergarten through second grade classes, and third through fifth grade classes, for consecutive years with the same cohort of students.
Parents have implored district officials to keep the program in place wherever the Pine Crest students ended up next year.
The multi-age program is expected to remain in place through at least fifth grade at the new Brook Haven.
The potential for a campus name change has not been publicly addressed. "We purposely did not make a decision beyond the relocation because we really look forward to that dialogue and conversation," Drehmel said.
Student population in the district has dropped from 1,400 to 700 in 15 years, a trend aggravated by an 18 percent drop in funding from the state in recent years.
That combination has left the district with a budget deficit and landed it on the Sonoma County Office of Education's budget-watch radar.
Plans are under way to lease Pine Crest's Hayden Avenue campus to the Sebastopol Independent Charter School and on Thursday night board members voted to begin the process of consolidating students on the Park Side Elementary campus to free up facilities for lease or sale, Schott said.
"Park Side has a lot of open classrooms," she said. "They will be very comfortable on the lower campus."
Park Side, which is currently in the lengthy process of becoming an International Baccalaureate program, is at about two-thirds capacity, Schott said.
Board members did not move to combine the district's two elementary schools because an official IB school cannot be housed in the same facility as a non-IB campus.
During many public meetings about how the campuses should be restructured, some parents expressed unease at putting kindergartners at the same school with middle school-aged students.
Schott said the needs of all students will be accommodated in the new format.
"The bell is not going to ring and we are going to throw everybody out on the playground together," she said. "That is just not safe and their needs are so different."
The transition team is expected to look at how other similarly configured schools manage their space and time.
"We can find out from other K-8 schools how they manage their schedule," Schott said.
Drehmel, who called it a bittersweet time for the district, said officials are soliciting input for the future of all three campuses each step of the way.