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As a Mountain Shadows Middle School mom, Chris McCarthy has her own period of adjustment to go through when the 46-year-old middle school in Rohnert Park closes its doors for good in June.

McCarthy is active on campus, spends time with staffers and sees many of the school's 700 kids frequently.

When those students move to the Creekside Middle School campus next fall and take on a new name, new mascot and new colors, things will be different, McCarthy said.

"I'm sad to lose that — the working relationship with the office staff and the teachers," she said.

But McCarthy and others associated with both schools said they are committed to making a hard decision a good one.

"I'm hoping that we as parents can kind of set the precedent for the kids," McCarthy said of bringing the two school communities together.

The Cotati-Rohnert Park School Board voted on Tuesday to close Mountain Shadows and move all middle school students to the Creekside campus on Snyder Lane. Creekside, built in 1992, will be renamed and a new mascot and logo will be chosen.

The new middle school will serve seventh and eighth graders while sixth graders will remain at the six elementary school campuses an additional year.

The change is expected to save the district $680,000 a year but means the loss of 29 full-time middle and high school teaching positions. The district plans to hire an additional nine elementary level teachers.

For Mountain Shadows seventh grader Squid Tamar-Mattis, the notion of packing up and leaving halfway through his middle school career is frustrating.

"I'm still annoyed at the laws that make it difficult to raise taxes instead of closing schools," he said.

Sonoma County's third-largest school district has been hammered in recent years both by a dramatic reduction in state funding from Sacramento, but also funding linked solely to enrollment.

In 2000, about 8,300 students attended the district's schools. Today, that number is about 6,000, said the district's chief financial officer Wade Roach.

The district is losing between 200-250 students a year. The departure of 250 students means about $1.25 million in lost revenue for the district, Roach said.

The district has cut the school year by five days, eliminated middle school sports, laid off 43 teachers before the start of the school year and increased class sizes.

There are few places left to give, said fifth grade teacher and teacher's union president Mark Galipeau.

"I live and work in Rohnert Park and there are a lot of people that moved up there with the notion of open swimming pools and a school in every neighborhood," he said. "That whole dynamic is changing. It's being felt everywhere. Of course our students and parents are finding that too. There's a lot of hurting people."

The closure of Mountain Shadows will mark the third school closure in the district in two years. Both La Fiesta and Gold Ridge elementary schools were closed in 2008.

For some parents, the closure and consolidation going on at the middle schools are justifiable, but there is some simmering resentment for a plan to change the name, colors and mascot at Creekside, which was built in 1992.

To make the change will cost approximately $25,000 and some parents have fought against the move and continue to argue it's a misuse of scarce resources.

"For them to spend money on changing a name when they don't have money for sports programs, coaches, music programs. Why?" said Donna Adney, whose seventh grade son attends Creekside. "Why spend money on something that frivolous?"

Many are conflicted on the name change.

"The money would be well spent to keep a librarian or keep some program like that going as opposed to new garments, but we don't want to create a second class of citizens at the new school," Galipeau said. "I do see it. In some ways, there has to be some leveling of the playing field."

McCarthy agreed, saying she has already heard some discussion among students concerned about what she called an "us and them" mentality.

A fresh start, a new name, would help that, she said.

"I know that financially, it may be an unpopular decision, but for the kids here, it means a great deal," she said.

Mountain Shadows principal Laurie Mason, who Superintendent Barbara Vrankovich said is likely to take over at the new campus after Creekside's principal Sandy Kuzma retires this June, said students have largely been seeking reassurance from staffers that some things will remain the same no matter where they are.

"They want to know that they are going to be OK and it's going to be alright," she said. "As adults in their lives, it's our job."

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