School District Appeal Denied. Velarde Elementary to Stay Open


School District Appeal Denied. Velarde Elementary to Stay Open:
“Lack Of Community Involvement “ Says PED Letter Denying Request To Close School

UPDATED 6/10/2015 at 1:20 p.m.

ESPAÑOLA  – As reported in an earlier story (PREVIOUS ARTICLE HERE), Española Public Schools Board of Education voted in February to consolidate Velarde elementary with Alcalde Elementary and sent the request to the State’s Public Education Department (PED) for approval. After several months of deliberation PED Secretary Hanna Skandera declined the request in a letter dated May 22 and delivered to the Superintendent on June 3.  

Facing a budget shortfall, the Española Public School District quickly filed an appeal requesting PED to reconsider that decision. That appeal was denied Tuesday. The Board is expected to review their options at Wednesday’s school board meeting and consider how they want to move forward. 

In the original denial letter, dated May 22, Secretary Skandera said in the letter “I have received a number of letters and emails in opposition to the request. While it is unlikely that a decision to close a community school will not draw any opposition, the letters and emails allege that the district did not vote to close the school in a properly noticed public meeting and that the public was not given the opportunity to comment on the proposed closure. If true, this would deny the community the opportunity to be a part of the process and have meaningful input in the decision.”

Public Education Department spokesperson, Robert McEntyre, said when contacted about the request to close Velarde Elementary “PED has denied the district’s request to close Velarde Elementary School and we have no plans to reconsider the decision at this time. The district is welcome to submit a new request with the required documentation and evidence for PED’s review.”

When contacted for comment, Acting Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez said that the Española  Schools Board of Education would take up the issue in a closed session Wednesday, June 10 and discuss the district’s options. Any decision would take place in a public vote following the closed session.

Gutierrez said the district was hoping to use savings from the closure to help reduce the projected $1.9 million budget gap for the 2015-16 school year, but said the district had recently discovered the projected savings from the closure of Velarde would save the district around $200,000 rather than the $330 thousand previously calculated.                                                                                                        

See a copy of the actual letter from Secretary Skandera below.