The San Diego city school board voted Tuesday evening to close two year-round elementary schools in East San Diego on the grounds that the community no longer provides enough young children to warrant keeping the schools open, officials and community residents said.
In split votes, the trustees of the San Diego Unified School District opted to close Orton E. Darnall School on Hughes Street and Montezuma School on 64th Street, effective June 6, and transfer the pupils to other area schools.
"The community is one where the children have outgrown the elementary schools, and where many of the members are now retired and don't have young children," said Ronald Hertzberg, principal of Montezuma. "Many of the homes are rented by college students. At this point there is not an indication that there is going to be a major change."
Hertzberg said Montezuma was built in the early 1950s and at one time had a student population of about 1,050. He said that number has dropped to 210. Only 45 of those are from the neighborhood, he said. Hertzberg said a school is best able to offer "options for parents and children" when its population is at least 400.
However, Hertzberg and others said the situation was different at Darnall, where nearly all of the student body comes from the immediate neighborhood. One community member said two dozen people turned out to ask the board not to close the schools, and most of them lived near Darnall.
"Our feelings here in our area are that we do have an area that is a growth area, not what they call a non-growth area," said Clifford Eskew, who has lived near Darnall since 1952.
Eskew said new apartments in the area are aiming to attract young families, and the hilltop is an appropriate spot for a school. He acknowledged that neighbors worry that the school district might sell the land for condominiums.
The schools are two of the 21 elementary schools in the district that operate year-round, Hertzberg said. Students from Montezuma will have the option of attending Edward L. Hardy Elementary on Montezuma Road or Henry Clay Elementary on Solita Avenue.
The principal of Darnall could not be reached Tuesday night. Hertzberg said he believed Darnall students would have the choice of attending George Washington Carver Elementary on Juanita Street or Rolando Park Elementary on Marlowe Drive.