A controversial proposal to close Doyle Park Elementary School failed Wednesday night after the Santa Rosa school board did not have enough votes to go forward.
The proposal, which generated a huge community outburst after being presented last month, would have shuttered the 61-year-old campus at the end of the school year. School district officials cited declining enrollment, a worsening budget crisis and poor academic performance at the school.
After emotional comments from students, parents and community members, board members presented often-lengthy statements about why they felt the school should or shouldn't be closed.
With board member Frank Pugh abstaining from the vote because he lives within the school's residential area, the proposal needed at least four votes from the seven-member board to pass.
But it only had three likely supporters, Donna Jeye, Larry Haenel and Bill Carle. Board members Laura Gonzalez, Ron Kristof and Tad Wakefield said they would vote no.
"This is a rush to judgment" that has made many suspicious, said Kristof, adding that the district should "put additional programs on site" to beef up enrollment.
"This is a functioning school community and closing this school is wrong," he said.
Carle initially said he was inclined to vote no because he had concerns about about what would happen to Doyle Park's students after it closed. Under the proposal, the students would be sent to Luther Burbank, Brook Hill and Proctor Terrace elementary schools, with the majority going to Burbank and Brook Hill.
Carle said he wanted to be sure that those schools could accommodate the students. That doubt seemed to be satisfied when the three principals of the schools said they would be able to take the more than 200 students currently enrolled at Doyle Park.
Even with Carle potentially changing his vote to yes, the proposal died without a vote because it would have ended in a tie, meaning no action would be taken.
"There's no reason for a vote," said Haenel. He earlier said that though closing the school was a difficult decision, his conscience compelled him to vote yes to keep the rest of the district fiscally sound.
The failure of the proposal was met with applause.
"I'm very happy that my little brother can have a chance to go there, too," said Juan Hernandez, a sixth-grader.
Doyle Park's future remains in question, however.
Enrollment has plummeted in recent years. From the 2002-2003 school year to the present, enrollment fell from 362 students to 240.
During the 1999-2000 school year, Doyle Park had 177 white and 126 Latino students. In the 2009-2010 school year, the number of white students had dropped to 36 while Latinos grew to 173.
School officials last considered closing Doyle Park three years ago. This time, the district has warned that it must come up with more than $8 million in cuts if state voters do not approve new taxes on the November ballot.
On Wednesday, school officials said that even if the ballot measure is passed by voters and even if Doyle Park closes, the district would still need to fill a $2 million budget gap.
Responding to pleas from speakers to put children before budget considerations, Jeye said, "It might not be about the money for you, but it is a part of our job, a big part of our job."