SAN ANTONIO – Community voices were heard loud and clear, even before a public meeting started Monday night.
"Keep our schools open!" chanted a row of families with signs.
The suggestion to close several South San Antonio Independent School District schools comes after a sharp decline in enrollment in almost every school. Superintendent Dr. Abelardo Saavedra said South San is only using 60 percent of available classrooms.
Numbers given during the first of several community meetings Monday evening showed elementary schools had seen the biggest drops.
"Don't let them close our schools. Don't overcrowd our kids," said Virginia Loera, who was one of the people holding signs and chanting outside the district meeting.
Loera is the vice president of the Athens Elementary Parent Teacher Organization. Her granddaughter is a student and her husband is a former teacher and current substitute teacher.
She said at Wednesday's PTO meeting, two board members she wouldn't identify told her about the district's idea to close several schools.
"That they were going to start with Athens and then the other one is Kendrick, Five Palms and Kazen Middle School," Loera said.
Saavedra wouldn't confirm which schools would be recommended for closure and just said that combining schools is one way to fix the problem.
"As far as the total number of students we have to educate, and the number of classrooms that we have, that's not going to shrink unless we have fewer classrooms," Saavedra said.
An independent company hired by the district predicts enrollment numbers will only continue to drop, costing South San ISD at least $2.2 million each year.
Still, every parent who talked to KSAT at Monday's packed meeting had the same answer.
"I don't want the school to change or close," said the mother of two South San students, Claudia Garcia. "This is like a family. The teachers, they're so very nice. Principal, very nice."
"Closing schools would put, I can't even tell you how many people out of a job, No. 1, and then the overcrowding. I don't even want to think about it," Loera said.
A plan to cut campuses is not set in stone yet. But Saavedra said a plan to consolidate campuses is likely to become final in the spring. He believes it's the best way to solve the problem. He is holding a series of these meetings to see how the community feels.
The next two meetings are:
February 27, 2017, at 6:15 p.m. - 7:15 p.m. at Kazen Middle School.
February 28, 2017, at 6:15 p.m. - 7:15 p.m. at Shepard Middle School.