School Board President Bryan Wong said Tuesday that is a last resort and stressed that the idea of closing schools has not been seriously explored.
With or without the passage of a state tax initiative meant to bolster funding for schools, the must brace for more cuts. The district formulated a contingency plan to save $2.5 million that includes the possibility of school closures and further staff layoffs that it will take to the school board on Wednesday.
But Wong said that the plan is only meant to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
"This is not the first time that this idea has been contemplated," Wong said in an interview. "It's been put out on the table because it has to be looked at."
Wong said there is no way to know if the district will actually face a $441-per-student budget deficit if the governor's tax initiative doesn't pass because the state warned of a similar scenario last year. The state threatened schools with a $300 cut per student if a similar tax initiative failed last year, but when voters shot it down, the cuts actually amounted to about $14 per student, Wong said.
"Even if things don't go right and this thing fails there is not guarantee that there is going to be a cut to the severity that they're telling us," he said.
School closures would present logistical "mayhem" for MUSD, Wong said, because none of the district's schools are at low capacity. That means if a school was closed and attendance numbers bumped back up again, the district would have to reopen the school.
"If there is any kind of upturn in our enrollment...we'd have to open the school back up and that would cost a fortune," Wong said.
There are five elementary schools, two middle schools, a high school, a continuation high school and a preschool in MUSD. Wong said the high school would naturally be off the table for closure because its the only one in town, but the district has not identified any schools that would potentially face closure if the tax initiative fails.
Until the state funding picture is clearer, Wong said the district will continue to operate as usual. If the tax measure fails in November and the state actually makes further deep cuts to education, Wong said the effect would be "catastrophic."
"The reality is, nobody knows, including the state itself, what's going to happen if it fails," he said.