By Karen Morfitt

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) — Families who fought to keep two of their Aurora schools open left Tuesday night’s Aurora Public Schools Board of Education meeting in tears.

(credit: CBS)

The school board voted to move forward with a plan to close Sable and Paris Elementary schools after the 2022-23 school year

It’s part of the district’s restructuring plan that was initiated in 2018 as a way to address changes in the district and respond to declining enrollment numbers.

The same recommendation was made at the board’s March meeting, and members voted not to go forward with the superintendent’s recommendation to close the schools, instead asking that he return with more options.

There was confusion among some of the board members and many of the families who thought that vote had taken the two schools out of consideration for closing, and why they were even brought back to the table.

“It’s been a shock for me,’ said Miguel Hernandez, whose two daughters attend Paris Elementary. “As soon as I got the notice that they could still close, I couldn’t believe it. Everybody wants to go to that school and to be part of that school.”

The board was given three options about how to move forward: Staying the course and closing the schools, putting a pause on the decision or abandoning the districts blueprint plan to right size the district altogether

Van Schoales is an education researcher for Keystone Policy Center. He says schools across the country are having to navigate the same struggles.

“Cities are going through significant demographic changes because of declining birth rates and also the housing stock,” Schoales said. “Houses are going through the roof, and that has been accelerating lately.”

Low enrollment means less funding. While he says no one wants to have to close schools, underutilized facilities are costly.

“It’s a way of shifting resources and targeting them in a way to be more effective rather than dragging them behind and trying to save something that may no longer be working,” Schoales said

Still, he says in order to be successful in implementing knew plans, districts need to layout a plan and work with the community long before it’s time to make changes

It’s something Lilliana Saffron says APS should have done more of.

“We have been spending several, several years trying to create a community, and they are trying to take that away from us,” Saffron said

“What I love about the school is the principal and my teacher,” Priscilla Hernandez said as her principal walked by.

“I love the school because I get to work with these awesome students,” Principal Mario Giardiello said.

Karen Morfitt