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Budget crisis may force O.C. school closures

February 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The state's lingering budget crisis continues to take its toll. Officials with the Orange Unified School District fear a lack of state money could force them to close as many as four elementary schools. One of the schools that may be shut down is Imperial Elementary in Anaheim Hills. Imperial is the only school in the district to offer a special program that teaches visually impaired children.

Some students fear that if the school is closed they may be forced into other schools that can't cater to their needs. Splitting up with friends is also a concern.

"If they close down the school, and I went to school, but my friends went to a different school, that would not make me very happy," said Rebecca Steege, one of seven visually impaired students in the program.

Parent, Jennifer Thompson, said shutting down the school would only be backward progress.

"We've worked hard to get this school up to regulations for them and Braille coded everywhere," said Thompson. "To get moved to a different school and to have to go through that again for our kids it's a struggle for us."

Parents have been handing out flyers in the tight-knit community to make sure people know what's happening. Aside from Imperial Elementary, three other schools in the district are being considered for closure; Riverdale Elementary, Panorama Elementary and Silverado Elementary. All four schools have a total enrollment less than 400 students.

Parents say they understand the budget pinch, but are urging the district to come up with other ways to save money.

"We know we have to save $10-million in this next calendar year," said parent, Jamie Catchpole. "We know it has to come from somewhere but? it doesn't come from a great school."

District officials said there's still studying the cost-cutting proposals, which also include reducing salaries and eliminating after school programs.

"It's a very difficult time," said Orange Unified District spokesperson Victoria Webber. "The state has not passed a budget and looking in that direction we have to plan for the worst case scenario."

Webber said so far no decision has been made to close the schools, but the district must have it all figured out before March 15th.


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