A proposal to shut down several La Joya Independent School District campuses proved so unpopular Wednesday that a majority of the school board immediately rejected it — without even waiting for administrators to start their presentation.
Concerned about low enrollment, La Joya ISD administrators brought the school board a proposal to shut down Kika De La Garza Elementary School, Leo James Leo Elementary School and Rosendo Benavides Elementary School.
Administrators prepared a 42-page analysis, which covered everything from projected enrollment to operating costs. The school board,
though, swiftly rejected the proposal during a work session on Wednesday afternoon.
“As long as I’m here, I’m always going to go against closing any schools,” said Trustee Alex Cantu.
Rather than shut down campuses, trustees said La Joya ISD should recruit more students to boost enrollment.
“There’s no reason why people that live in the La Joya ISD community shouldn’t have their kids here,” Cantu said. “Because we have great
programs, we have great education for the kids.”
School board President Oscar “Coach” Salinas agreed.
“My decision was already made that I was going to try to defend every campus,” Salinas said.
Closing schools during a pandemic is simply a bad idea, said Trustee Mary T. Hernandez.
“It’s not the right time. We’re in a pandemic,” Hernandez said. “We can afford to have less kids in classrooms, so they can catch up
easier. Whether we like it or not, actually, our kids did fall behind.”
Enrollment, however, remains a major problem for La Joya ISD.
From 2017 to 2021, enrollment at Leo Elementary dropped from 533 students to 378 students, according to the analysis. La Joya ISD
projected that enrollment would drop to 352 students in 2022.
To cut costs, students at Leo Elementary would be split between Jose De Escandon Elementary School and Guillermo Flores Elementary School.
Administrators prepared a similar analysis for Benavides Elementary.
From 2017 to 2021, enrollment at Benavides Elementary dropped from 429 students to 377 students, according to the analysis. La Joya ISD
projected that enrollment would drop to 336 students in 2022.
Students from Havana would be sent to Tabasco Elementary School. All other students at Benavides Elementary would transfer to Sam Fordyce Elementary School.
The proposal noted that closing Benavides Elementary, which is located in a rural area north of Sullivan City, would hurt the surrounding
“Benavides is situated in one of our district’s most underserved areas. Keeping Benavides open will allow that area to have access to
district resources,” according to the proposal, which noted that La Joya ISD also made the campus available for emergency shelter, after
school programs and community events. “If possible, we could relocate HOPE Academy to the Benavides building and continue to provide those resources.”
Salinas, who is from Sullivan City, opposed the plan to shut down Benavides Elementary.
“That’s the only thing that community has out there,” Salinas said. “To them, that’s their Walmart. To them, that’s their everything.”
De La Garza Elementary had the most serious problem with enrollment.
From 2017 to 2021, enrollment dropped from 442 students to 322 students, according to the analysis. La Joya ISD projected that
enrollment would drop to 306 students in 2022.