The uncertainty of whether or not transportation will be provided next year for Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy sixth graders that will be relocated to Dutcher Middle School has not only frustrated parents, but some Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustee members as well.
“The bussing is a real challenge, but this is a solution that has to come sooner than later,” said Board President Frank Lima during Tuesday’s Board meeting. “The lottery is coming up soon and our site principals are already dealing with these questions. Out of fairness to them, we have to come up with a solution.”
The highly debated move of Osborn sixth graders to Dutcher 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 TUSD Board unanimously approved the expansion, including the move, in March.
During a routine update on Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler said that the Dual Immersion Expansion Team, otherwise known as DIET, recommended that the District maintain its current transportation routes and services policy.
According to policy, a student is eligible for transportation services to and from school if the distance between the school-established bus stop and the school is beyond the minimum distance requirement. For elementary school students between kindergarten and sixth grade, the minimum requirement is one mile. For junior high school students in seventh or eighth grade, the minimum requirement is two miles.
“The committee recognizes that increasing transportation for sixth graders at Dutcher next year would incur a cost to the District, so that would need to be considered and added into the budget for that year,” said Lawler.
Lawler said that DIET is currently exploring other options, including developing a system where the bus stops are determined by student enrollment in the area or identifying a single location, in this case Soderquist Park, as a possible pick up and drop off location for those students.
“We can’t provide bussing for everybody that needs it, because if we could we would have buses on every corner and every street and we’d be bussing everybody to school, but obviously that’s not practical,” said Lima, “I hope that we can find a solution that a majority of us can live with.”
DIET also recommended on Tuesday to offer an extended day kindergarten option at Wakefield Elementary School when the school establishes its own immersion strand in the 2016-17 academic year. The new strand will progressively grow larger until it joins Osborn as a second magnet school in TUSD that is fully devoted to two-way bilingual immersion.
“We acknowledge that it will be a challenge perhaps for such young children to go to school for that extended day, so we really want to ensure that we are providing training to teachers so that they are able to utilize that additional time in a manner that is effective,” said Lawler. “Merely providing that additional time is not enough.”
Lawler said that according to state law, transitional kindergarten must mirror the kindergarten program at that school site. As a result, Wakefield will also offer extended day transitional kindergarten as part of the immersion program expansion.
The number of extended day kindergarten classes that will be offered at Wakefield is yet to be determined; however, Lawler said that the District is currently conducting a survey of potential Wakefield students. Once those numbers are determined, she said that she will bring that information will back for the Board’s consideration.