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Dual immersion program bumps up enrollment at Wakefield
Since implementing a dual immersion program at Wakefield Elementary, the school has seen a sharp increase in enrollment of transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students. - photo by Journal file photo

The success of the new dual immersion program at Wakefield Elementary School this year can be quantified in little “‘aha’ moments” every day, according to kindergarten teacher Maria Montejano, who said she was initially afraid to teach in the program after growing up as part of a migrant family.


“It was very frowned upon to speak Spanish and so growing up we faced a lot of obstacles, but this really brings a different ‘aha’ moment for me to be teaching in dual immersion and to see so many students proud to speak Spanish,” said Montejano. “When students feel proud then they face less obstacles and that leads to success and self-confidence, so I’m really excited about the learning taking place in the dual immersion classroom.”


Principal Luisa Salinas said that there are currently 22 students enrolled in Wakefield’s only extended-day transitional kindergarten class. Of those 22 students, 17 reside in the Wakefield attendance area. Wakefield has also maintained three extended-day kindergarten classrooms with 72 students — 66 of which reside in the school’s attendance area. There are three students currently considered overflow in transitional kindergarten and 24 considered overflow in kindergarten. Seven kindergarten students in overflow are also on the school’s waitlist.


“If we overflow students it’s because we didn’t have any space for them when they came in to register. Just like any other school site, when they’re filled up we have to overflow and find another place for them until they are able to come back when a spot opens up,” said Salinas, who said that overflow students at Wakefield either go to Cunningham Elementary School, Crowell Elementary School or Julien Elementary School. “Because our classes have maintained full, we have not been able to take back any students into the program.


“Based on our numbers that we currently have of overflow students, we could have opened up a fourth class,” added Salinas.


Salinas said that just looking at students who reside in the Wakefield attendance area, the school can expect about 80 eligible preschool and transitional kindergarten students to enroll in the program’s extended-day kindergarten next year.


“Based on the whole class that we had to overflow and knowing that we currently have three classrooms of our neighborhood students, we would need an additional kindergarten next year,” said Salinas.


While the dual immersion program at Wakefield was originally implemented as part of the dual immersion program at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy in 2015, assistant superintendent of business services Mike Trainor said that it is too early to tell what affect it will have on Osborn’s waitlist.


“Currently, Osborn’s waitlist has not been affected by the transition of Wakefield,” said Trainor. “However, with this being Wakefield’s first year as a two-way bilingual immersion program, we anticipate more families will gain interest in the program which potentially could affect Osborn’s waitlist.”


As the dual immersion program at Wakefield continues to grow enrollment numbers, director of maintenance operations Scott Richardson spoke before the Board of Trustees Tuesday to present information regarding the Wakefield Elementary School Kindergarten Relocation Project, as well as the Head Start Classroom Addition Project.


“It was last spring when we realized the impact that we were going to be having at the Wakefield campus with regards specifically to playgrounds at the time due to the number of students that we have there,” said Richardson. “There was something like 14 separate classes sharing one playground and we knew immediately we had not enough facilities to handle all those students.”


Richardson said that last year through LCAP the district set aside some funds to build new playgrounds for students at Wakefield. Funding was provided to build two new playgrounds, and one has already been completed for the school’s kindergarten program. The other playground will be built on the opposite end of the campus for Head Start students.


There is also a need for more restroom facilities at Wakefield, according to Richardson, who said that TUSD hired FF&J Architects to prepare a preliminary site plan, which includes a layout and design of a new kindergarten facility as well as modifications to the Head Start and State preschool facilities.


“We hired Gary Mallory to come in and help us put together a bigger picture plan for Wakefield to help us address many of our needs, rather than just addressing the one item that we knew we could immediately handle ourselves,” said Richardson.


On the kindergarten side of the Wakefield campus, Mallory said that the district has plans to remove five existing portable classrooms and put in a new modular classroom building with five new kindergarten classrooms and new restroom facilities. There will also be a new storage shed built near the kindergarten site to hold playground equipment after school and during weekends.


“We’ve also suggested that a sixth classroom could be added in the kindergarten wing without impacting the running track should you see an increase in enrollment and have a need to add another classroom at a later date,” said Mallory.


For Head Start, Mallory said that the maintenance and operations department is getting ready to construct a new playground, as well as a new modular classroom building on the north side of campus. To make the playground more accessible and viewable, the district is also proposing to rotate the existing buildings counterclockwise 90 degrees so that the main entry doors lead into the play area.


“That way, staff can see the kids outside playing without necessarily being outside with them,” said Mallory. “Right now they go around the corner for their play time.”


The Board authorized administration to enter into an agreement with American Modular Systems to purchase the new modular classroom for Head Start at Wakefield. The cost of the 36-foot by 40-foot classroom, including delivery, installation, flooring, heating, ventilating and air conditioning, is slated to cost $177,120.