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Osborn expansion delayed as district explores further options
The Turlock Unified School District opted to halt any shifts of Osborn sixth graders to Dutcher and other options intended to deal with the crowded classroom to give the District more time to come up with an option that works for all the stakeholders. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Turlock Unified School District has temporarily halted the idea of moving Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy sixth graders to Dutcher Middle School, despite the fact that the immersion school is projected to reach maximum capacity with upwards of 1,000 students next year.

Instead, current operations at Osborn are scheduled to carry on as usual as TUSD has opted for more time to reach a viable solution that will be approved by all stakeholders for the 2016-17 academic year.

“We need to be careful about how we grow such a wonderful program,” said parent Amy Miller. “We want to give everybody opportunities, but within reason of making the program strong too.”

A unanimous vote from the Board on Tuesday decided that current grades and classes at Osborn are slated to be maintained for the 2015-16 school year, while the District has plans to increase personnel and facility accommodations to continue with its provision of a safe, productive campus.

“What we need to consider is what is best for the students. That’s why we’re here and that’s what we should not lose track of,” said Board member Eileen Hamilton. “I don’t care how much money it costs.”

According to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor, the District is looking into hiring a supplementary crossing guard and campus supervisor, as well as installing Porta-Potties and food service sites.

During Tuesday’s meaning, Trainor provided “ballpark figures” to estimate the cost to maintain Osborn at maximum capacity for next year at approximately $40,000 — a total that does not include the prices associated with potentially hiring food service workers or installing additional food service sites, as those numbers were not available at the time.

 “Although we have only a rough estimate of the combined costs at this time, we are prepared to cover the expenses of any necessary safety measures and accommodations for the Osborn campus,” wrote Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dana Salles Trevethan in an email earlier this week.

However, this is only a temporary solution as the District is planning to research a number of options for the following school year.

“We didn’t want to come to you with the recommendation for more time without having some additional options for you to know that we’re going to start working on tomorrow — not in two weeks, not in two months, not this summer,” Trevethan told the Board on Tuesday.

One of the options to be considered for 2016-17 is the potential move of dual immersion sixth graders to Dutcher Middle School in order to create an authentic middle school culture, expand dual immersion, and align to new Common Core State Standards.

The District will also research the possibility of conducting an immersion magnet lottery to fill seven kindergarten classes — five at Osborn and two at Wakefield Elementary School — and one transitional kindergarten class at Wakefield. With this option the District would be able to maintain the sixth grade at Osborn.

District administration will also research the possible establishment of an immersion strand at Wakefield to increase enrollment and create more opportunities for more students to participate in immersion.

The last established option to be explored by the District is the expansion of middle school concept to non-immersion sixth grade students at Dutcher Middle School by including additional classes in the lottery process.

“I like the idea of getting ourselves to buy some time to plan it well and do the things that we talked about, but I have to also be conscious of the safety of the children that we have on campus,” said Osborn Principal Ed Ewing. “I think that on campus we can manage that for a year given the additional resources we discussed.”

“Will it be easy? No, it will be hard, this year has been difficult with 975 students, but I think we can do this for a year with the idea that starting tomorrow we have to plan and plan it well,” continued Ewing.