The mood at Emerson Jr. High’s Carnival at Cannery Park this weekend was especially jovial in light of the school board’sApr. 3 decision to keep the school open.
In order to help make the necessary $4 million in budget cuts for next year, the school board recently considered the option of reconfiguring secondary schools, which would have involved closing Emerson and redistributing its students.
At the urging of Emerson parents and students, the school board voted 3-2 to keep all three junior highs open and maintain the same 10-12 grade configuration in the high schools.
“Everyone was kind of tense and stressed before the decision,” said Frances McChesney, co-president of the Emerson Parent Teacher Association. “After [the decision], people were really enjoying themselves at the carnival.”
Proceeds from the event are projected to exceed McChesney’s original goal of $10,000 and end up netting the PTA between $15,000 and $20,000, she said. The money will go toward buying computers and other equipment for Emerson’s teachers.
The PTA hired Butler Amusements to provide 16 classic carnival rides, including a 60-foot Ferris wheel, a 35-foot high slide and a roller coaster. There were plenty of game booths and prizes, live music and a concession stand with corndogs and snowcones.
The school board moved up the due date for the facilities and building assessment of Emerson by six months. This will put the board in a better position during budget planning next year to weigh the costs and benefits of keeping the aging junior high open.
“Emerson is 27 years old and not of great construction to begin with,” said Sheila Allen, president of the school board.
With $4 million in cuts to be made for this budget and a similar situation forecasted for the next, the school board must choose whether to cut more programs and teachers or consolidate the schools.
“It’s a question of tradeoffs,” Allen said. “It’ll be awful no matter what.”
Emerson was spared for at least this year when the school board decided that reconfiguring the entire secondary system was too large a decision to make in just several months, Allen said.
Davis is one of the last three California school districts to still use the seventh through ninth grade junior high configuration.
“I’m glad it’s going to stay the same,” said Alison Denton, Davis resident and mother of a Holmes Jr. High student. “It’s what I’m familiar with. I grew up here.”
With the status quo protected for now, Emerson parents have turned their attention toward other budget cuts that threaten programs and teachers.
“The people we lose are the young enthusiastic teachers,” said Sue Darst, mother of a seventh grader at Emerson.
Darst is among the many volunteers who work for the Davis Schools Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising organization of Davis parents and community members.
In response to this especially difficult budget year, the foundation began its Dollar-a-Day Campaign asking for donations of a dollar a day for a year for each DJUSD student. The organization has raised $447,270 so far.
The money will go toward saving programs like foreign language, science and music in Davis public schools as well as paying the salaries of some teachers and librarians.
“We hope we can raise enough to keep everyone,” Darst said.
ALYSOUN BONDE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.