Huntington Beach school serving district's highest concentration of low-income, Latino students closing

The Huntington Beach school's student body is more than 40% Latino and nearly half of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, which is the highest concentration in the district.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- After four decades, an elementary school in Huntington Beach is shutting its doors for good. The school serves a large number of low-income kids.

Many families are outraged by the decision and say they plan to fight it. Some parents at Perry Elementary School are refusing to let the school permanently close.

"We're willing to fight to the end because it's justice, you know," said Kurt Chrestensen.

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Chrestensen is outraged following a unanimous decision by the Board of Trustees of the Huntington Beach City School District to shut his children's school down. Their morning routine is out the window.

"We can't walk to school if our school is going to be farther away because our house is right down the street, so we just walk from there to here," said Annika Chrestensen.

Superintendent of Schools Gregg Haulk says the decision is a difficult one, but calls it necessary, following a decline in enrollment and discrepancy in funding.

"We are the lowest funded school district in Orange County, and that lack of funding from the state is really affecting what we can do as a school district," said Haulk.

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Parents say the task force making the recommendation is not representative of their community, and they're unhappy the process was done via Zoom and in English. They argue those most impacted by the move are low-income, Spanish-speaking families.

"A lot of parents don't have internet or they don't speak English, so it was hard for them," said Valeria Espinoza.

"It is geographically important. There is no close schools to this one in our school district. It could be looked at as a social justice issue," said Haulk.

The decision has caught the attention of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund or MALDEF.

In letters to the board, MALDEF points out that at Perry elementary, 80% of students live within the school's boundaries. This is the highest of any other school in the district.

The student body is just more than 40% Latino, and nearly half of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged - the highest concentration in the district.

Students and parents were asked to stop by throughout this week to pick up their belongings. Meanwhile, MALDEF says they will not comment on any further legal action.

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