The Fountain Valley School District's board room filled nearly to capacity Thursday night as parents, students and graduates of Fred Moiola K-8 School urged the district to stop the campus from closing.
More than a dozen speakers took the microphone to protest the recommendation by the School Boundary & Closure Committee to shutter Moiola at the end of the school year. The committee in August recommended cutting Moiola to save the district about $375,000 annually.
The speakers, who often drew loud applause from their peers, stressed to the trustees that the school amounted to more than numbers on a page. Some said the school's K-8 structure, unique in the district, enabled children to more easily make the transition to adolescence.
Hannah Holbrook, a junior at Fountain Valley High School, said the nurturing she got from Moiola teachers prepared her to thrive at her current school, where she pole vaults and writes for the student newspaper.
"Getting rid of this Moiola experience, it's heartbreaking for me," she said.
Lisa Allen, the mother of a Moiola student, displayed a petition signed by more than 50 parents threatening to withdraw their children from the district if Moiola shuts down.
"I am telling you, the community is standing up for Moiola," she said.
The district plans to hold a public hearing on the closure at 7 p.m. Nov. 8. Supt. Marc Ecker said the community can comment at the board's regular meetings Nov. 17 and Dec. 8.
After the meeting, Ecker said he sympathized with Moiola's supporters.
The district has cut nearly $7 million in programs and services over the last few years, trimming salaries and class sizes and reducing the number of school days, he said.
"Closing a school is probably the most difficult task to consider for a school board," Ecker said. "It's like choosing which member to kick out of a family."
The committee, a 20-member group of parents, school officials and community members, formed early this year and met nine times to determine whether a closure was necessary and which campus would cause the least disruption to the district if it shut down.
The committee used eight criteria, including size, current enrollment and proximity to the closest school, to determine which campus to recommend for closure. Moiola met the most criteria.
Stephen McMahon, the district's assistant superintendent for business, said the board could vote on closing the school as early as December.