Demanding decisions, parents of Machado Elementary and Encinal
Elementary students blasted the Morgan Hill Board of Education
Monday night regarding the probable closure of both schools.
Demanding decisions, parents of Machado Elementary and Encinal Elementary students blasted the Morgan Hill Board of Education Monday night regarding the probable closure of both schools.

“It perplexes me that we can go from a broken pump to a closed school so quickly, and also that we can go from an operating standpoint to looking at a total renovation,” Machado parent Debbie Reynolds said.

Machado, the district’s oldest school – more than 100 years old – closed Jan. 31 due to a total well pump failure. The school’s 40 students, first and second graders, were moved to two vacant portables on the Paradise Valley Elementary campus.

Closure of the school is listed as one of the consensus recommendations from the performanced-based budget committee. The list includes $1.7 million in cuts, with Machado’s closure posting a savings of $29,078.

The School Board is charged with cutting $3.4 million from the district budget, and the performance-based budget committee met to come up with recommendations for the board.

“The root cause of the district’s budget problems is enrollment in public schools,” said Machado parent Joe Burch, who lives next door to the school site. “You are missing an opportunity to pull in Morgan Hill residents … by not providing enrichment. Unfortunately, my oldest child has been waiting for six years to attend Machado, and now it doesn’t look like she’ll be able to. So I’ll have two of my three kids in private school, and the third will probably end up there, too.”

Students do not attend class in the actual old building on the site, although it is maintained by the Machado Heritage Society and used for community events, such as scout meetings, birthday parties and weddings. The students are housed in a classroom building built in the late 1960s, according to Deputy Superintendent Bonnie Branco.

Branco said closing the school is not just a budget issue or a pump issue.

“The pump is a problem, but so are the copper pipes on the site,” she said. “The well is a shallow well, and there is continual contamination … But the building itself is in an extremely deteriorated state. There is lead in the building, dry rot, termites … If we kept the school open, it would not be in that old building. We would tear it down and build something new.”

The school is eligible for approximately $113,000 in renovation money from the state; it must be matched by School District funds in an 80/20 match and used only to renovate Machado, or the money reverts back to the state.

The Machado Heritage Society has offered to repair the pump and get the water flowing on the site again. Because there was no outlay of money required by the district, a board consensus Monday night was all that was needed to set things in motion.

The Machado concerns will be taken up again by the board at the March 24 meeting.


Encinal and Los Paseos parents were upset with the board because they haven’t heard anything, they said, about the proposed consolidation of the two schools since December.

“The district has made sporadic attempts to work with the (Encinal/Los Paseos) community,” said Site Council President Tom Herman. “We met five months ago and agreed to form a community task force. The district has not complied. We have not heard one word since December.”

Herman said the community was surprised when it hear about the possibility of giving Encinal to the Charter School of Morgan Hill (CSMH), which, by law, must have the same facilities as other schools in the district by November.

“Quit going behind our backs,” he said. “You continue to ignore and insult us … You have to make the appropriate decisions, that’s entirely up to you, but you need to look beyond the ends of your noses. It just doesn’t feel as if you have the best interests of the children in mind when you make decisions.”

Closing Encinal is also listed on the consensus recommendations, at a savings to the district of $144,075. According to the district, “The CSMH will need the entire campus, and if the Encinal facility is offered and accepted, it is clear that the current fifth and sixth grade Encinal students will need to attend Los Paseos for 2003-2004 or move into portables on Encinal.”

The district is not taking Encinal’s fifth and sixth graders into consideration, said Encinal/Los Paseos parent Diana Hoernicke.

“(The proposal) makes no mention of the students currently attending the school,” she said. “There are so many issues that haven’t been addressed: parking, classrooms, bathrooms, traffic … What are we to do until the new building is complete? Is this your intent, to ignore these students and hope they’ll go away?”


When Branco and other district officials met with Los Paseos/Encinal parents in the fall, plans were drawn for the creation of a new multi-purpose room, oversized so it could also be used by the City of San Jose for community events when school is not in session. The City of San Jose, with the approval of the School Board, is applying for funds to construct the multi-purpose room.

The plan included having students attend classrooms in portables if Encinal was closed after this school year, until renovation of Los Paseos’ current multipurpose room into classrooms was complete. If Encinal were to close after the 2003-2004 school year, the students would not have to move into portables.

Superintendent Carolyn McKennan acknowledged that the district had “dropped the ball” when it came to communicating with the Los Paseos/Encinal community.

Trustee Shellé Thomas said she thinks it is important, for the sake of the students, that a decision is made swiftly.

“We need to provide kids with a home and a direction,” she said. “I don’t like the message I’m sending to the kids.”

Parent Barbara Zizzo said there are many questions the district must address if Encinal is to be turned over to the charter school.

“Will our fifth and sixth graders be allowed to occupy the school?” she asked. “Will they be allowed to transfer to the charter school? Will they be moved to the Martin Murphy campus? Will they be squeezed into Los Paseos? I know some families who are already planning to transfer their students out of the district.”

CSMH Executive Director Mary Smathers acknowledged that the decision is not an easy one for the district. She also said the district is not required to provide the school with facilities free of charge; CSMH would pay a pro-rated fee of facilities expenses.

Charter and district officials have meetings scheduled for April; the official district response is required by April 1.

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