Turlock Unified School District’s proposal to expand Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy’s dual immersion program took many parents and community members by surprise last week, as was demonstrated by a packed Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday.
The dual immersion program’s proposed expansion has sixth grade Osborn teachers and students set to relocate to Dutcher Middle School as early as next year, where four existing classrooms will need to be prepared cosmetically and technologically.
The District also proposes further expansion of the dual immersion program by developing a strand at Wakefield for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten, which will open up 24 additional slots for potential students as early as the 2016-2017 academic year.
“These are 24 slots we would have on a waiting list at Osborn that we would be able to accommodate at Wakefield,” reported assistant superintendent of educational services Dana Trevethan.
In a public discussion that exceeded two hours, the District addressed all parental concerns and questions regarding the proposal. One concern shared by both parents and Board members was the District’s arguably rushed timing in relation to the proposed expansion.
“What is the impetus behind doing this next year and then figuring out what our final plan is going to be? Why don’t we just wait a year and do the research?” asked Board member Barney Gordon. “For the students who will be affected, this is a big transition.”
“What about these students who will be moved from Osborn to Dutcher? Do we have any feedback from these students or parents, what their thoughts are?” questioned Board member Harinder Grewal. “I think it’s critical to have feedback from parents and students before we rush into this.”
Trevethan answered both questions by informing both Board members and the public of three scheduled parent community information evenings that will be held throughout February, where the District will solicit feedback from all stakeholders.
“Our three public information meetings at the three affected campuses will be to collect feedback from those parents,” said Trevethan. “We will not bring forward any recommendations until we have collected all feedback to make the best decision for students and families.”
Other concerns from the public ranged from transportation issues to the notion that sixth graders are too young to transition into the social arena that accompanies middle school.
“You are forcing sixth graders to grow up,” remarked one parent. “I don’t want my daughter wearing makeup. Sixth grade girls at the elementary level do not wear makeup, but I guarantee you entering sixth grade at a middle school level—she will be wearing makeup.”
Other members of the public questioned the District’s lack of communication regarding the proposed expansion, which spread from Osborn teachers who were notified last week.
“One of things that I found a little disturbing is that it required me as a parent to hear by rumor that this was on the Board agenda tonight,” said parent Jeff Kettering. “We are at the end of January and we are first hearing about these proposed changes. With what I heard from the District, they want this to happen in August. Where is the true public process going to come in here? There is no time.”
Board President Frank Lima echoed Kettering’s comments, stating that plans for expansion should have begun years ago.
“With all due respect, this discussion should occurred in 2012, when we decided to add another section at Osborn,” said Lima. “However, we don’t need to do anything. We can wait, plan it out right, do the community forums, and do it next year—but the reality is every year we have more kids on that campus and we have to address it.”
According to facilities planner and safety coordinator Roger Smith, if the District opts to do nothing, Osborn is expected to host upwards of 1,026 students next year.
“The volume of students on the 10-acre site is just more than can be dealt with on a rational basis,” said Smith. “Something has to be addressed in order to alleviate that pressure. We have to make some kind of a shift to address that overcrowd.”
The District will host its first community information evening on Feb. 10 at Osborn. Two more meetings will also be held next month at DMS and Wakefield, although no official date has been set.
After collecting feedback and input from all stakeholders, the District will bring back revisions to the Board in order to make the best decision on behalf of all students and staff.