With the highly debated move of Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy sixth graders to Dutcher Middle School less than a year away, principals from both sites met with affected parents on Wednesday to discuss preliminary plans and solicit ideas regarding the upcoming transition.
“We knew that we needed to improve our communication with our parents and that’s why this year we’ve laid out a lot of these opportunities to communicate with the parents,” said Dutcher Principal Scott Lucas. “It’s very important especially with a profound and valuable program like the immersion program.”
“Not only at Osborn, but also at Dutcher,” continued Lucas.
Dutcher’s imminent transformation into a middle school that encompasses sixth through eighth grade is the result of the Dual Immersion Program expansion at Osborn, which reached maximum capacity this year with over 1,000 students. Following fervent discussions that date back to January, the Turlock Unified School District Board unanimously approved the expansion, including the move, in March.
“There are some things that we know for next year. For example, we know that there is going to sixth, seventh and eighth grade and we know where their classrooms will be located,” Lucas told parents. “The other things we’ll hopefully finalize through this process of talking to parents and getting ideas.”
“This is going to be a group effort,” added Lucas.
During the Wednesday meeting, Lucas unveiled a proposed bell schedule that encompassed a common lunch period for all grade levels. This will not only facilitate budding relationships among all students according to Lucas, but will also give sixth graders the opportunity to participate in the over 20 clubs available at the middle school.
“That’s the one thing that makes our school very unique—all the clubs that we have to offer,” said Lucas. “If we do separate lunch periods, those sixth graders that we wanted to have part of our school culture so much would miss out on these clubs and activities.”
The suggested bell schedule also included the homeroom concept for incoming sixth grade immersion students. During the daily ten-minute homeroom session, students engage in a number of activities, including school announcements, emphasis and review of monthly character traits and opportunities to engage in teambuilding and positive character activities.
“Homeroom is a time where all of our students come together in a designated classroom,” said Lucas. “Currently each homeroom class consists of a mixture of seventh and eighth grade students, but my plan for next year is to also incorporate our sixth grade students.”
Each student will keep the same homeroom teacher for the entirety of their time spent at Dutcher according to Lucas, who said that whichever homeroom teacher an incoming sixth grader immersion student gets next year will be the same teacher they will have in seventh and eighth grade.
“This is a way for the teacher and the student to connect in a different way,” said Lucas.
Following homeroom, seventh and eighth grade students will proceed to follow their regular bell schedule, which encompasses eight periods, and sixth grade immersion students will withdraw to their self-contained classrooms where they will spend the remainder of the day.
While Lucas and Osborn Principal Ed Ewing were able to address a number of concerns during Wednesday’s meeting, one significant concern they were unable to provide a definitive answer for was whether or not transportation would be provided next year for the sixth grade immersion students.
“I can let you know that our transportation department is working on a couple of different options,” Ewing told parents. “I’m fairly confident that for some of our families there will be transportation provided to Dutcher, I just know that our transportation department is just working on exactly what that’s going to look like.”
“I would anticipate within the next month or so we’ll be able to report back to you with specific details on at least what the plan is or maybe what options we have,” continued Ewing.
Maria Guevara, who currently has students enrolled in fifth and second grade at Osborn, said that a lack of transportation would present significant hardships for parents, especially those with multiple children at different school sites.
“If there is no way of transportation, parents will have to walk their child and it is very difficult to walk to Dutcher, especially when you have to drop one child off at Dutcher and then go back and drop your other child off at Osborn,” said Guevara through a translator.
Guevara said that she hopes that the District provides transportation first and foremost for the safety of the students, specifically those who cannot be accompanied by a parent. She said that if the District does offer transportation, she also hopes that it will continue as the sixth grade immersion students progress to seventh and eighth grade.
“If transportation is considered and given to us, my next concern is that it will only be for sixth graders,” said Guevara.
At the end of the meeting on Wednesday, parents were given the opportunity to fill out a yellow form with any additional questions and concerns they had regarding the transition. Ewing said that he plans to take the completed forms back to the Dual Immersion Expansion Team, which consists of teachers, site administrators, instructional coaches and parents who are collaborating for the expansion.