decisions regarding budget: layoffs, discontinuing programs,
slimming down in general. A $3.4 million shortfall must be made up
somewhere, but, naturally, no one wants the piece taken out of
The School Board and the district are facing many difficult decisions regarding budget: layoffs, discontinuing programs, slimming down in general. A $3.4 million shortfall must be made up somewhere, but, naturally, no one wants the piece taken out of their pie.
One of the items on the chopping block is Machado School, the 40 first and second graders on the site of a 109-year-old school in a charming, rural setting.
Currently, the 40 students are being housed in two portable classrooms on the Paradise Valley campus. The students were moved Jan 31 after the well pump at Machado failed and no water was available at the site.
The movement was swift and unexpected. Parents were aware that the pump had been struggling for a few weeks, but were stunned when the letter came home that Friday telling them that the students would go to Paradise, not Machado, on Monday.
Perhaps the district could have “primed the pump,” so to speak, by clueing the parents in when the problems first began that a move might be in the works. If they were looking at closing Machado for budgetary reasons, as many parents believe they were, a note home explaining to parents the pump situation as well as budgetary issues would have led parents to believe they were a part of the process.
This might have taken a little of the emotion out of the picture.
As with most issues in this era of belt-tightening, there are no easy answers here. There are clear points in favor of keeping the school open, and clear reasons to close it.
Machado parents have appeared before the School Board, extolling the unique educational opportunities the school offers, including the rural atmosphere, the team-teaching approach, the enclosed, self-contained situation. Parents tell the board that the current situation, with the two classes separated and on a distant corner of the Paradise Valley campus, with a long, lonely walk to the nearest restrooms, is definitely a handicap, compared with what students had become accustomed to at Machado.
Are the annual operating costs – estimated at $30,000 (a figure that does not include salaries) – for the campus enough of a savings to consider closing the school, they ask. And what about the reported provision in the deed to the property that dictates that the property return to a descendant of the Machado family if there are no active classrooms on the site?
And the Machado Heritage Society has offered to pay for repairs to the water system so that it is fully functioning again. The district should take the group up on its offer.
The society, which opens the original building to community groups and rents it out to weddings, wants students to remain on the site. In the past, they have provided a garden on the site for the students to use and contributed to the upkeep of the portable classroom on the site.
There are no easy answers. But approximately $3.4 million must be axed from the district budget for next year as government agencies throughout California deal with the state’s $35 billion budget deficit. And with everyone clamoring to leave their particular programs alone, where is the money to come from? Every little $30,000 helps.
If Machado remains closed next year, and it looks like it will, the district must make an effort to better accommodate the first and second grade classes next year, perhaps moving fifth or sixth grade classes out to the two portables.
An effort could be made to arrange blending-time between the two displaced classes so that the team teaching teachers could continue to give their students the same curriculum as they would have on the Machado site.
Just as an unfortunate experience led to the creation of a mini-Barrett campus on the Paradise Valley site three years ago, the dire financial situation the district finds itself in now could lead to a mini-Machado, or a Machado-substitute campus, with the hope that, in future years, as the financial situation eases, there will once again be classes at the real Machado.
How to make a difference: The best way to contact School Board trustees to express an opinion is by email. Visit the district website, www.mhu.k12.ca.us, and go to the Board of Education heading. You can click on trustees to send them an email. Or, you can reach Board President Tom Kinoshita at [email protected], Trustee George Panos at [email protected], Trustee Del Foster at [email protected], Trustee Jan Masuda at [email protected], Trustee Mike Hickey at [email protected], Trustee Amina Khemici at [email protected] and Trustee Shellé Foster at [email protected]