It’s always a controversial idea, but three Santa Fe elementary schools could be on the chopping block. The schools need work, and with an aging population and fewer students, the district could decide it’s time to close some of them.

Empty desks, empty playgrounds, and an aging population.

“We’ve outgrown the neighborhood, our kids have grown up,” said Jeff Howley of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Public Schools have seen fewer kids walk through their doors in recent years.

“We’re seeing a decline in enrollment particularly in the elementary years so we have more elementary seats then we have students,” said SFPS Superintendent Veronica Garcia.

With a drop in students, the school board says three different schools could be on the chopping block: 
Chaparral Elementary, Nava Elementary and E.J. Martinez Elementary. 

The neighborhoods around E.J. Martinez aren’t getting any younger.

“E.J. Martinez demographers have estimated that by 2020, roughly 70 percent of the population will be over age 65,” Garcia said. “The property values are pretty high so they don’t attract younger families.”

Garcia says that’s not the biggest issue they’re facing.

“The primary factor is whether or not we have the capacity to continue to repair them and rebuild,” Garcia said. “Will we be able to get the voters to rebuild three schools?”

A lot of people who live in near those campuses want them to stay open.

“Everyone in this neighborhood went there and it’s a shame and a waste of money to throw away a building like that,” said Antonio Baca, who lives near Chaparral Elementary.

“There’s a lot of need for the youth and Santa Fe, and it would be sad for them to close it and shelter it down,” Jeff Howley added.

“Smaller schools are good for a lot of children to give them more of a sense of community, and it’s important to have smaller class sizes,” said Diane Pierce of Santa Fe.

There are about 12,600 students in the Santa Fe School District right now. That’s down more than 500 from just a few years ago. The district says it’s also not sure it can afford to keep all those schools open even if they are renovated.