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Parents weigh in on Osborn expansion options
Final public forum Wednesday at Dutcher
Osborn pic
Osborn Two-Way Immersion students perform Mexican folkloric dancing for the program's 20 year celebration in April 2014. High demand for the dual immersion program has created an overcrowding problem at the Osborn campus. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock Unified School District's goal this month is to collect parent and community feedback about possible solutions to the overcrowding problem at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy. District staff received plenty of comments, questions — and criticisms — at its first two public forums held at Osborn on Monday and Wakefield on Tuesday, and there's still one more forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Dutcher Middle School.

"Our intent for conducting the three scheduled community forums is to listen, clarify and collect additional options from the community, and last night’s event proved to accomplish this.  We appreciated the comments and suggestions made toward the current eight options shared and look forward to summarizing the best solutions for our students, their families and our staff for consideration," said Dana Salles Trevethan, assistant superintendent of educational services.

District staff presented eight possible options to help alleviate the overcrowding issue at Osborn and grow the dual immersion (Spanish and English instruction) program in the future.

Options that could be implemented for the 2015-16 school year included downsizing the number of kindergarten classes offered at Osborn, from seven to five; moving the dual immersion six grade classes to Dutcher Middle School; and housing five dual immersion kindergarten classes at Osborn and two dual immersion kindergarten classes and one transitional kindergarten class at Wakefield Elementary School.

Another option up for discussion was not moving or downsizing any classes for 2015-16, but instead hiring more campus staff for Osborn and bringing in portable outdoor eating facilities and restrooms to accommodate the close to 1,000 students expected to be enrolled at the campus for one more year, giving District staff more time to plan a long-term solution.

Osborn parent Mike Hibdon said he is in favor of the District waiting a year to make changes to allow more time for planning.

"Let's wait and be prudent about this. It's kind of rushed to start something in the next school year," he said.

In the future, Hibdon would like to see the District start a new strand of the dual immersion program at Wakefield School rather than moving sixth graders to Dutcher Middle School.

"I don't want my child having their sixth grade experience at a middle school; I want them to have that experience at an elementary school," he said, citing a Duke University study that found sixth graders placed in middle schools have more discipline problems and lower test scores than their peers who attend elementary schools.

A handful of parents at the Osborn forum also expressed concerns about their sixth grade children sharing a campus with seventh and eighth graders and questions about how the classes would be integrated on the middle school campus.  Dutcher Middle School Principal Scott Lucas said the sixth graders would be integrated with the seventh and eighth grade students during homeroom, lunch time and school activities like dances, but they would have academics with other sixth graders. The exception would be for those students working at a higher level in one area like math. Those students would then have the opportunity to take a seventh or eighth grade course.

Longer term solutions presented at the public forums included establishing a strand of the dual immersion program at Wakefield, with the goal of eventually having two campuses fully devoted to bilingual education and dividing the program into two grade level spans assigned to Osborn and Wakefield, with grade spans based on site capacity. This option would see possibly kindergarten through second grade dual immersion students attending Osborn and third through sixth grade students attending Wakefield.

The split site option is not something Osborn parent Juan Gutierrez would like to see happen.

"One of the main concerns I have with this whole situation is that I expected my kids to finish this program from K through sixth. And the administration themselves and the student body and the faculty have created a nice culture here. If you split K-2 and 3-6 that would be the worst thing to do; you've lost that cultural part of it, and that's what I expect my kids to get," said Gutierrez.

All of the eight options will be presented at Wednesday's public forum at Dutcher Middle School, along with a form to collect feedback. Community members not able to attend the meeting, can pick up a feedback form at Osborn, Wakefield or Dutcher school sites to complete and return to the school district by Feb. 20.

Comments and suggestions will be reviewed by District staff before proposals are brought before the TUSD Board of Trustees at the March 3 board meeting.