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South San ISD trustees reject superintendent's recommendation to close four schools

The South San Antonio ISD central office, with a sign in the foreground and the building in the background
Camille Phillips
South San Antonio ISD moved its central office to this location after reopening West Campus High School in 2019.

The superintendent of the South San Antonio Independent School District recommended trustees approve the closure of four schools Wednesday evening.

Trustees voted 5 to 2 to reject his recommendation.

Superintendent Henry Yzaguirre said the district is facing a growing deficit currently sitting at about $10 million and urgently needs to find ways to cut costs.

“We are spending more than we actually receive to operate our schools,” Yzaguirre said, adding that the district expects to empty out its savings, known as a fund balance, in less than two years if budget cuts aren’t made.

“That means we will default on our obligations and be unable to make payroll for our staff,” Yzaguirre said.

Yzaguirre said South San is currently keeping the deficit at bay with the use of federal COVID-19 recovery dollars called ESSER, which are intended to help students get extra academic support, but that funding will end in 2024.

Three of the four schools Yzaguirre recommended for closure were reopened by trustees in 2019 against the recommendation of the former superintendent. In addition to reclosing Athens Elementary, Kazen Middle School and West Campus High School, Yzaguirre recommended the closure of Kindred Elementary.

He estimated closing the four schools would save South San $9 million a year, in addition to the savings gained by discontinuing renovations on West Campus High School.

Trustees of the South San Antonio Independent School District rejected Superintendent Henry Yzaguirre’s recommendation to close four schools Wednesday evening. He said he recommended those schools for closure due to low enrollment, proximity to other schools, and limited extracurriculars at the middle school and high school.

Shirley Ibarra is part of the board majority that voted to keep schools open. She was also on the board in 2018 and voted to reopen the three previously closed schools.

“I'm thinking about our kids and our staff, because then our kids have to be shifted to other buildings,” Ibarra said. “They're not going to be happy, and then we're going to lose our students. And then we're not going to be able to get them back.”

Ernesto Arrellano and Manuel Lopez voted in support of the superintendent’s recommendation to close schools — a decision that was not popular with the audience crowding the board room in anticipation of the vote.

“We can say that Mr. Yzaguirre needs to do this, he needs to do that, he needs to look for something else. He's the expert. Him, Mr. Kingman the CFO, and all of his staff are the experts,” Arrellano said.

Several of the trustees who voted against closing schools said they wanted to hold open meetings at the schools up for closure to share more information. But it was unclear if those meetings will take place, or if their vote would change once those meetings took place.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Education News Desk, including H-E-B Helping Here, Betty Stieren Kelso Foundation and Holly and Alston Beinhorn.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.