Dayton schools closure proposal coming today; board vote next week

Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli will present her recommendation for school closures or “right-sizing” in Dayton Public Schools at tonight’s school board meeting, and the board will allow time for members of the public to comment on the issue immediately after Lolli’s presentation.

The meeting is at 5 p.m. today at DPS headquarters, 115 S. Ludlow St. in downtown Dayton. Lolli’s presentation is the first item on the agenda after the pledge of allegiance.

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School board President William Harris said Monday that the board will not vote on the recommendation Tuesday night, but “more than likely” will vote on it next week at the March 20 school board meeting.

“We just want to make sure the public has enough information, and that they can express their views,” Harris said. “Of course you’re not going to get consensus all the way around, but we hope we can do the best we can.”

Lolli’s recommendation will come after a shortened task force process that was challenged at multiple steps by local media over its openness.

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On Friday, activist David Esrati filed a new motion in his ongoing lawsuit against the district. He asked for a preliminary injunction preventing DPS from making any school closure decisions until a judge rules on his case, challenging the legality of the process.

DPS officials say declining enrollment has left several buildings — all in West Dayton — below 50 percent capacity. They say combining some schools and closing others could save money while improving some educational processes. Some members of the public have pushed back, suggesting that combining schools could lead to larger class sizes, which could have negative consequences.

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In recent months, Lolli has said on multiple occasions that the district might close a small number of schools. Early in the process, she said the number could be around three schools. Three weeks ago, Lolli said a “guesstimate” was that “we’re looking at a couple of buildings that could be combined into the other buildings that are partially full.”

It’s also possible there could be some grade realignment. Lolli said having seventh- and eighth-graders spread across seven different schools (three pure middle schools, two PreK-8 schools and two high schools) has an unintended negative consequence.

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“We have a difficult time finding algebra teachers, for example, for all seven buildings,” Lolli said last month, adding that the same issue rises with foreign language teachers. “It’s not equitable and not fair that some students go without that opportunity” because there is not a teacher in their building.

Lolli said DPS could fit all of its seventh- and eighth-graders into three buildings if needed.

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