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Turlock Unified approves immersion program at Wakefield
Transportation to be provided for Dutcher students
dual immersion wakefield
The Turlock Unified School District has decided to transition Wakefield Elementary into a complete dual language immersion site. - photo by Journal file photo

With registration for Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy and Wakefield Elementary School right around the corner, the Dual Immersion Expansion Team at Turlock Unified School District gathered before the Board of Trustees on Tuesday to provide a clearer picture of what those two sites will look like come next school year.

As part of DIET, teachers, site administrators, department representatives and parents have been working diligently since January of last year to flesh out the Dual Immersion Program expansion at Osborn, which reached maximum capacity this year with over 1,000 students.

The TUSD Board unanimously approved the expansion, including a highly debated move of Osborn dual immersion sixth graders to Dutcher Middle School, in March of last year.

“I would like to commend the District administration for the work they've done on this,” said Board member Barney Gordon. “This is a tough problem that we’ve kind of created ourselves through our own success at Osborn.”

For the 2015-16 school year, the District chose to first maintain the existing program at Osborn with additional facilitates and safety support while DIET developed further plans for expansion for the 2016-17 school year.

“In this process, the team considered site facility preparation, staffing considerations, transportation options and program review,” said Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler.

As previously outlined in the plan, dual immersion sixth graders will be transferred to DMS in the 2016-17 school year in order to create an authentic middle school culture, expand dual immersion and align to new Common Core State Standards.

The District will provide transportation to DMS students in sixth through eighth grade using the one-mile walking radius from the middle school campus, which was a recommendation brought to the Board by DIET based on data and parent input.

“Transportation has been a key issue for parents as we looked at the Dutcher Middle School transition for the sixth graders,” said Lawler. “The plan will be ongoing for all students at Dutcher.”

The District will expend $250,000 for additional administrators and campus security at DMS, and $120,000 for additional transportation staffing. This provision will have no effect on the level of service for TUSD athletic and co-curricular programs and field trips.

Although the original expansion plan only included establishing an immersion strand at Wakefield to increase enrollment and create more opportunities for more students in dual language development, the feedback received from a community survey prompted DIET to “naturally” move in another direction. The District has since made plans to phase in a complete immersion program at the elementary site.

“We know that dual language is a huge benefit to our students," said Lawler. “At this point, 35 families have submitted early enrollment information and every one of those 35 have opted for the dual immersion program.”

To further increase enrollment, Principal Shelley Santos said that the campus will also offer three extended-day kindergarten classes and one transitional kindergarten class, as well as incorporate an environmental science focus school wide that will align to CCSS-integrated curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards.

Lawler said that the next steps for DIET will include addressing staffing needs, enrolling students, providing professional development and implementing site-based transition plans—all while continuing parent engagement.

“This process has taught us a great deal about how important it is to involve parents,” said Lawler. “We’ve worked closely with parents and all of those voices together help make this program stronger.”

Registration for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten at Osborn and Wakefield will take place on Jan. 27. The lottery for Osborn is scheduled for Feb. 25, and if needed, another lottery will be scheduled for Wakefield.