Littlerock parents, students express concern over possible school closures amid declining enrollment

Leo Stallworth Image
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Antelope Valley parents express concern over possible school closures
Parents and students expressed concern over the possibility that some schools in the Antelope Valley may be permanently closed.

LANCASTER, Calif. (KABC) -- Parents and students are expressing concern over the possibility that some schools in the Antelope Valley may be permanently closed.

The Keppel Union School District says several factors, including low enrollment rates, are provoking tough decisions.

In the face of talks to close Keppel Academy Middle School in Littlerock, students and parents on April 11 rallied outside of the campus.

"Why can't we keep this school open? Why? We want answers," said parent Catherine Navarro. "It doesn't make any sense to us."

"It breaks my heart," said Michelle Oliver, a grandparent and school district employee. "I've been with the district for eight years, and to hear their hearts breaking, they're just like my own kids here."

Parents voiced their concerns at a recent school district board meeting. Keppel Union School District officials say the district's budget is shrinking, enrollment is down and tough decisions must be considered -- including closing the middle school and shifting students to other campuses in the district.

"Statewide they are declining, countywide they are declining. Keppel is no different. So, we know with declining enrollment, what that means -- it means the revenue that is coming in is also going to shrink drastically," Superintendent Priya Darbari said. "With the budget deficit that the state is projecting -- and we are all in that same boat -- we will have to make some tough decisions."

"I met my friends here and I like the teachers here," student Donna Garcia said. "I just think it's a great school and I don't want it to close."

Student Jacob Oliver said he wants "this school to stay open because I believe that academically it challenges, students should go here, and it's a great learning opportunity for all kids."

The superintendent said closing Keppel Academy Middle School is one way to avoid laying off staff, as other school districts are being forced to do.

"We are not laying off any of our certified employees," Darbari said. "I want to preempt that. I want to mitigate that."