Janice Little, who teaches 4/5th grades at LaFiesta School in Rohnert Park, sheds a tear at the awards ceremony; the school is closing after today.

A day for tears as Rohnert Park schools close

Sean Lowe could not hold it together.

On the final day of Rohnert Park?s La Fiesta Elementary School before it closes down for good, the father of a graduating fifth grader and daily campus volunteer stood teary-eyed on the playground as students wandered up to give him a hug.

?Sean?s crying,? one young student said, waving her friend over to offer condolences.

?I have 300 and some kids here. I?m afraid I?m not going to see them again and it?s very sad,? he said, wiping away tears. ?It?s an ending of a part of me.?

The emotional scene was the same across town, as Gold Ridge Elementary School also said goodbye to not only their graduating students, but also to teachers, staff and parents.

?We bought a house here 13 years ago just so our kids could go here,? said Julie

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Veveiros, whose daughter, Olivia graduated fifth grade from Gold Ridge Friday. ?We own houses in other areas, but there is no way ? this is it. It?s a true community spirit that I haven?t seen anywhere else.?

The closures of La Fiesta and Gold Ridge by the 6,500-student Cotati-Rohnert Park School District were necessary, board members said because enrollment is falling by about 200 students a year.

?It?s huge for us,? said chief financial officer Wade Roach. ?When you lose 200 students, in round numbers, you lose a million in revenue.?

Gold Ridge and La Fiesta were selected because of the age of the schools and cost of maintenance.

Gold Ridge, opened in 1987, has 339 students and La Fiesta, opened in 1975, has 330.

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

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