Board Won't Review Plan to Close Madison : Marchers Fail in Attempt to Save School

Times Staff Writer

More than 100 parents and children from Madison Elementary School took to the streets Monday night to protest the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education's decision to close their school in September.

"Don't close Madison! We want Madison!" the protesters shouted along the march route from Madison Elementary at 1018 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, to school board headquarters at 1723 4th St.

The demonstrators, many carrying placards and flashlights, gathered outside the school board room and chanted until the board agreed to hear them. The board listened to the parents' complaints, but did not reconsider its Feb. 12 vote to close the school, nor did it comment on the marchers' protests.

"We are here to protest the closure of our school," said Kandi Reyes, a parent and protest organizer. "The school board needs to reconsider its decision because it will hurt many families."

The board voted to close Madison Elementary because of declining enrollment and a shortage of funds. Madison has 317 students, 66.6% of them minorities. School officials said they plan to transfer the students to other schools in Santa Monica and sell or lease the site, which is in a commercial area.

Sheila Rosenberg, Madison's PTA president, asked the board to delay its decision at least two years until the new boundaries are drawn and plans are made for the transportation of the students.

She said many of the families in the Madison district are worried about the possibility of their children having to travel excessive distances to other schools.

Rosenberg asked the board to ease the transition for Madison students by introducing them to youngsters at the schools where they will transferred.

"Our children will be going to schools where there are different social and economic backgrounds than the ones they are used to," she said. "There needs to be a program to help in the transition."

Rosenberg said she was also concerned about whether the district planned to hire more crossing guards. "We are worried about our kids," she said. "We don't know where they will be asked to go and many parents are frightened."

At Monday's meeting the school board began reviewing several possible changes in the school boundaries aimed at limiting travel time and balancing the ethnic mix within the remaining seven Santa Monica elementary schools.

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