Huntington Beach Parents Continue to Fight Perry Elementary ClosureVoice of OC | #students | #parents

Huntington Beach parents are still fighting to reverse the closure of a school serving their district’s highest concentration of Latino and English-learning students, whose lives parents say will be upended once forced to transfer and commute elsewhere.

Dozens gathered outside Joseph R. Perry Elementary School on Tuesday for a protest where children held up signs reading “Save my school” and demonstrators marched around the surrounding neighborhood.

Huntington Beach City School District board members in April voted to close the school in the midst of a financial crisis, reasoning the closure would save operational costs and buy them time to address the district’s budget, currently projecting a $6.9 million deficit in a few years.

District officials at the time also said it would help ward off the threat of the community losing its grip on classroom decisions and school programs in the event the district fell into state receivership.

After a previous closure threat in 2018 — which officials backed off on that year — a more recent study by a school district task force recommended Perry’s closure again this year.

Critics say the district’s been circling Perry for years because of many students’ low socioeconomic status, and that Spanish-speakers were excluded from the task force meant to study the district’s options.

“They didn’t give us an opportunity to express our feelings and opinions about the closing of the school,” said Stephanie Brito, a parent who spoke to the crowd during Tuesday’s protest. “My son goes to the school, I’ve had great communication with his teachers … I came here today to raise my voice together with the community for what’s right, for justice. We will not stay silent and not give up for our kids and the community.”

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Perry Elementary students and parents attended a rally June 23, 2020, calling on public officials to keep the school open.

Parents have decried the closure and its impacts on a socioeconomically disadvantaged community inside the school district where providing transportation is difficult for some families and parents are largely tied up with work. 

Many are concerned that some low-income families will now have to pay for their kids to use the bus to travel to a farther school or adjust their work schedules to drive their kids. 

The basic charge to ride the bus per student is $224 per semester. For students who qualify for free lunch, the bus pass is $30 per semester.

Perry serves a student population that’s around 40% Latino and 48% low income, according to official school data. More than 380 students attended in the 2018-2019 school year, according to state education data.

With the decision to close the school’s doors, district officials have also opened one to a possible lawsuit — something that the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) in Los Angeles has been warning of for months. The group’s staff attorney, Deylin Thrift-Viveros, was on his way to the protest when he said over the phone that he’s continued to hold interviews with Perry parents and the lawsuit is still in consideration.


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