The transportation inequity at Dutcher Middle School next year that will follow the relocation of Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy sixth graders was a source of exasperation on Tuesday among Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustee members.
“Where I see the issue and where we have the confusion and frustration is in what we’re doing,” said Board President Frank Lima. “We’re putting sixth graders on the same campus as seventh and eighth graders—that’s the problem. We’re trying to treat the kids at the same school differently.”
“Had I known this I would not have been real receptive to adding sixth graders to Dutcher,” said Lima.
Although Director of Transportation Michelle Stone said that TUSD will provide transportation next year to Dutcher immersion sixth graders per Board policy, she said that this arrangement is the only provision that TUSD can guarantee at this time.
“We don’t want to commit to something that we have to take back at some point,” said Stone.
This caused contention among Board members, who still expressed concerns regarding transportation for non-immersion Dutcher students.
“I do have a problem when you’re at the bus stop and it’s raining outside and we’re picking up the sixth graders, but we’re telling the seventh grade sibling to start walking or get on your bike and start moving,” said Lima. “I think it’s just so impractical and crazy as a parent.”
Based on TUSD’s ability to meet needs through adequate qualified staff and equipment, Stone said that her department will utilize a prioritization process to increase student access to opportunities through district-provided transportation.
After the provision of transportation for Dutcher sixth grade immersion students, Interim Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan said that TUSD has “every intent” to provide transportation to other students who need it as well.
“It would make very little sense to have a sixth grade student on the bus waving goodbye to their brother,” said Trevethan. “But until we increase the fleet and look at additional funding, and until we have the personnel to drive an additional bus, we only have what we have today.”
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.
Although the original expansion plan only included establishing an immersion strand at Wakefield Elementary School to increase enrollment and create more opportunities for more students, the feedback received from a community survey prompted the Dual Immersion Expansion Team, otherwise known as DIET, to “naturally” move in another direction.
“With an overwhelming majority saying that they will choose immersion, we now are looking at not a strand, but really starting from the ground up with kindergarten fully immersion and growing the program just much the same that Osborn did with their grassroots effort,” said Wakefield Principal Shellie Santos.
“So eventually the school will be fully devoted to two-way bilingual immersion,” continued Santos.
In order to increase enrollment at Wakefield, Santos said that the campus will also offer three extended day kindergarten classes and one extended day transitional kindergarten class, as well as incorporate an environmental science focus school wide.
Santos said that the environmental science focus will align to Common Core State Standards-integrated curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards. It will also engage students, raise achievement levels in core areas and enable students to make connections and apply learning to real world.
“The whole school will have an environmental science focus starting in immersion with kindergarten and growing,” said Santos.
Osborn Principal Ed Ewing said that his school will be hosting a parent meeting on Dec. 3. During this time, Ewing said that he will explain the dual immersion program to the parents of any incoming kindergarten or transitional kindergarten-aged students who may be interested, as well as begin accepting applications through Feb. 19 for the school’s lottery.
Ewing said that priority placement will be given to siblings of current Osborn students, children of full time employees and to students that reside within the school’s former attendance boundary. Following priority registration in January, the lottery will take place on Feb. 25 to fill remaining slots.
In the 2016-17 school year, Osborn will offer six kindergarten classes and one transitional kindergarten class.
“Normally we have a waiting list and oftentimes what happens is we’ll have parents who really wanted immersion,” said Ewing. “I think it’s really great that we have another school in the district offering a program that’s obviously greatly desired by folks in our community.”