Throngs tell Long Beach school officials: Keep East Elementary open

Patrice Krzeminski of Long Beach opposes a district proposal to repurpose East Elementary School. The school district held a forum on the issue Tuesday night. Videojournalist: Patrick Whittle (Jan. 28, 2014)

More than 350 parents filled Long Beach High School Tuesday night to discuss a proposal to turn East Elementary School into an administration building, with most opposing the plan.

District officials have said closing East to students is one of several options on the table for reorganizing the district. Restructuring is necessary, in part, because enrollment at the 3,600-student district is down more than 600 students from 10 years ago, Superintendent David Weiss has said.

Weiss said Tuesday night that schools "have been and are a source of support" for Long Beach residents in the wake of superstorm Sandy, which displaced many city residents. But he said keeping East open to students might not be financially responsible.


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"We need to build a sustainable budget," he said.

Parents raised a host of objections to repurposing East, including fears of overcrowding and lengthened school commutes. Others said they feared the restructuring plan would force siblings to attend different schools and disrupt students still affected by Sandy.

Still others said shuttering East to students would remove the centerpiece of the neighborhood, which sits about a mile east of City Hall. The school was built in 1926.

"We're not going to save a lot of money" by closing East, said Alexander Krzeminski, whose son attends the school. "Is it worth the sacrifices?"

The school board could vote on reorganization at its Feb. 11 meeting, officials have said.

The district's options include repurposing East and reorganizing the district; reorganizing the district and keeping East open; or doing nothing, district officials have said.

Repurposing East would save the district the most money -- more than $1.6 million, officials have said.

Brette Ocampo, who has two children at East, said before the meeting she fears closing the school would result in overcrowding at other campuses. She said she is recruiting parents to oppose the plan.

"There's only negatives that I see out of this," Ocampo said.

The Half Hollow Hills school district also grappled with school closures due to declining enrollment recently and decided two of its seven elementary schools would close at the end of this school year.

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