SAN ANTONIO — After several meetings and community town halls to gather input on the topic, Harlandale ISD's school board voted 4-3 to close five facilities – including four elementary schools – in a bid to stave off the impact of ongoing enrollment issues.
Columbia Heights, Morrill, Rayburn and Carroll Bell elementary schools will be consolidated as a result of the vote, as well as the Jewel C. Wietzel Center. The board's president and vice president were among those who voted against the measure, which was a topic of heated debate among the district community in recent weeks.
Among the first speakers in the public comments portion of the meeting was a woman whose went through the Harlandale ISD system with her siblings, and who lamented the now-approved closure of multiple schools that had been recently renovated.
“Our students are listening to, watching and learning from us,” she said. “My heart is torn for the schools on the list.”
Esmeralda Campos, whose children are students are Rayburn, later said tough decisions are necessary if the district wants to endure.
“I would rather lose a few schools than see my beloved Rayburn teachers and other personnel lose their jobs next year,” Campos said, before addressing fellow parents directly: “Put your concerns and passions into what comes next. Our children will be OK.”
>See more comments from speakers at the meeting below:
The district has chalked the decision up to declining enrollment which has officials facing a $12 million deficit. Its other options were to keep the schools open or lay off staff.
Discussions about the meeting have been heated, with parents speaking out saying closure isn't the right move. Others, meanwhile, say school closures are the only option to save the district’s future.
District officials say they've seen a 25% decline in enrollment since 2015. If the trend continued without action, Harlandale ISD leaders say, the district stood to lose more than 3,100 students by 2031.
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