School closures on hold in Mariposa County

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif.

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Under the cost cutting plan, Catheys Valley Elementary School and Coulterville-Greeley School would close next year and more than a hundred students would be bused to other schools. The meeting was held in the Mariposa Elementary School cafeteria, where some of the students may be transferred if the district goes through with the closures.

The district estimates closing the two schools would save nearly $400,000 but parents said the schools are worth much more. "This school is a heartbeat for our community," said Greeley Hill parent Deana Lessley.

The plan would also mean more time on the bus for most students – in a rural district where the average bus ride is already at an hour and a half. "Being 30 miles from home and a bus for an hour and 45 minutes, it's just going to be a lot of hardship," said Lessley. Lessley also works as instructional aide for Coulterville Greeley, but she said the job was the least of her worries. She's just hoping the school will remain open for other students.

Lessley's 8 year old daughter, Lily, also addressed the board members, telling them how the school closure would impact her. "My mom and I go to that school and all of my friends if you shut that school down all of my friends would be affected and so would my family," Lily Lessley told the board.

After hours of discussion, board members voted to table the item until Thursday, delaying the final vote. But the reprieve may just be temporary. "In Mariposa, we've held off closing schools for two years and we've had just about any kind of reduction you can imagine. We're at a point where school closures is really the last card to play," said superintendent Aaron Rosander.

The fate of the schools will remain up in the air until Thursday. Some say the future of entire Mariposa community is also on the line as well. "If the school closes, a lot of families are already talking about leaving. We're going to go back to a retirement community," said Greeley Hill parent Paula Scofield.

"A community with no school is a community with no future," said Catheys Valley parent Benoit Dayrat.

Though the board did discuss other options Tuesday night, they are working against a deadline. The district has to submit a balanced budget to the state by June 15.

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