Should BSD Eliminate an Elementary School?


Justine Favazza

Should Brentwood consider one single elementary school for all students?

The Brentwood Board of Education is currently discussing a pressing issue about our district; should the city renovate our current elementary schools or build one mega-school for everybody? I attended the board meeting last Monday night to get the scoop on the upcoming decisions and April ballot. 

Justine Favazza
Brentwood administrative/central office where school board meetings are held.

According to the BOE minutes from November 19th, the Elementary Facilities Planning Committee investigated both elementary properties for 15 months. They finally recommended that a single school be built on the Mark Twain site. One consolidated elementary school would cost $23 million to construct, whereas two renovations would cost $29 million in total. Due to the price difference, the two separate renovations would result in a higher tax increase for Brentwood residents. Additionally, one big elementary school would mean new outdoor fields for our sports teams and the community, built on the current McGrath site. This would include a regulation FIFA soccer field, tennis courts, and a new playground. These fields would require no tax increase for citizens as it would come out of BSD’s funds. Unlike the middle and high school construction, work for a single elementary school would take place on the Mark Twain field, which will potentially avoid learning distractions.

When venturing into the meeting on Monday night, I expected the environment to be much tenser. After hearing people passionately discuss both sides of the argument (especially on Facebook), I thought the division would be very prominent. However, I soon realized why everybody seemed so unified. The meeting began with citizen comments, all of which were pro-separate schools. The most common argument for separate schools was the lack of walkability. As anybody who lives in Brentwood knows, being able to walk from place to place is an immense selling point. Parents of young children especially were concerned about the elementary school being located across the hectic Brentwood Boulevard. 

Justine Favazza
McGrath Elementary School on the west side of Brentwood Boulevard.

Another concern from mostly west side (McGrath) parents was that the value of their homes would decrease if only BMS/BHS was on their side. By eliminating one of the schools, there is the potential of home values lowering, which is understandably upsetting if residents own a home on the west side. Some other lesser-repeated worries included that the small student-to-teacher ratio would not be maintained as well as the deterioration of the friendly Brentwood community. Although the board says that the ratio would stay virtually the same in a single building, a few citizens still seemed distressed.

After the first round of citizen comments, the board members began their conversation about whether or not either of these options will be on the ballot in April. This was the first time a pro-one school argument was presented. BOE member Jaimie Allen was on the side of a combined elementary school. After going into some detailed finance information, he brought up the point of maintaining two buildings in the long term. He thought that would be unrealistic, especially considering that Brentwood’s population has been on the decline in recent years. This was when the meeting began to get a little more heated. During this chat, multiple parents passionately stood up and signed up to speak at the end of the session. Suddenly, the group didn’t seem quite so cheerful and unified. Once the board finished up their discussion, it was time for the final round of citizen comments. 

Justine Favazza
Mark Twain Elementary School on the east side of Brentwood.

Although the majority of these comments were still on the side of two-schools, some single school arguments were also presented. Of course, the added sports fields and green space would be a bonus as everybody could benefit from them. Not only would the Brentwood teams have a new location to practice, but the community could use this space as well. Another point was that a single school would make Brentwood fifty-fifty. Both sides would get one school, which would seemingly make everything fair. All students would go to elementary school on the east side and transfer to the west side for middle/high school. To combat the walkability issue, it was pointed out that BSD would increase their crossing guard staff and provide a bus to take kids across the boulevard. This way, parents would not have to fret about their young children walking every day.

Once the citizen’s concerns came to a close, the board still seemed unsure if either of these options would appear on the ballot this April. The meeting was adjourned at about 9:30, running almost 2.5 hours! As of January 21st, the board voted on the two school option being the final decision. The $29 million bond issue, Proposition E, will be on the upcoming ballot. According to BSD, Prop E is to “rebuild and renovate the two elementary buildings.”

Should Brentwood have one elementary school or two? Let us know what you think!