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School Board & Parent Group Disagree on Overcrowding Relief

Adelante Spanish Immersion School in Redwood City is over capacity - but a group of parents aren't happy with the school board's ideas for how to deal with the overcrowding.

Editor's Note: Adelante Spanish Immersion School in Redwood City - a K-6 campus - is currently 21 students over capacity. One of the ideas the Redwood City School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent Jan Christensen have proposed to deal with the overcrowding is to move Adelante's sixth grade to the Kennedy Middle School campus. A group of Adelante parents is against this suggestion.

Below is a letter from the group of Adelante parents to the school board. Below that, is a letter from Superintendent Christensen, in response to the parent group's letter.

The School Board is scheduled to discuss overcrowding relief in its meeting tonight - Wednesday, Nov 14 - at 7 p.m. in the district offices at 750 Bradford St. The public is welcome to attend, and may address the board at select points during the meeting. For more information, visit www.rcsd.k12.ca.us.

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November 9, 2012

Dear School Board Elected Officials,

We the parents of Adelante Spanish Immersion School are appealing to you to reject the Nov. 14, 2012 proposal to move our sixth-grade students to the Kennedy Middle School campus. 

In absence of a transparent, viable, long-term strategic plan, we insist this decision must not be made. While we recognize that there are obstacles to keeping our program intact, we ask that our specialized program not be diluted to correct these problems.

Studies show that there is significant achievement loss during each transition year (Alspaugh, 1999). Achievements in math and reading fall dramatically in sixth grade for students who enter middle school in that grade ('Middle School Plunge,' 2012).

Another research study found that girls in early adolescence suffered from a drop in self-esteem, extracurricular participation and leadership behaviors when they made the transition into middle school. For boys, the study found similar negative effects in extracurricular participation and grades. The authors concluded that the relatively protected elementary school setting made the entry into adolescence less stressful for both boys and girls. (Simmons & Blyth, 1987).

In addition, many studies have found that entering middle school in sixth grade shows a 18 percent higher high school drop-out rate in contrast to students who enter middle school in seventh grade ('Middle School Plunge,' 2012).

The above cited empirically-reviewed studies show the positive benefits one extra year can provide for our students, both socially and academically. By supporting a continued K-6 configuration model of Adelante, you support our students in furthering and retaining their language skill acquisitions.

Over 50 percent of our student population qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program; we are a Title I school, and in our second year of mandated Program Improvement. Despite the challenges we face, our school is a recognized California Distinguished School, and we boast the fourth highest API scores in the Redwood City School District.

Our children do well because we, the parents, have invested years into making our community on campus excellent. As the Redwood City School District website touts, “Adelante School is committed to a schoolwide focus on Spanish Immersion.” 

Having our students in a 100 percent language immersion environment allows them to develop the language outside of the classroom - on the playground, with the office staff, janitors, and visitors. Staying in a fully immersed environment is crucial for the language development of our students.

We implore you hear us, and we adamantly maintain that undercutting our program would be detrimental to the integrity that it currently holds. We are appealing to you for your understanding of the value of offering a strong, intact K-6 Immersion program for our students.

Thank you for listening to our concerns, and we are looking forward to your vote in favor of our students.

Sincerely,

(A group of) The Parents of Adelante Spanish Immersion School 

 

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From Redwood City School District Superintendent Jan Christensen:

The Redwood City School District values feedback from parents and the community on all issues.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to questions and concerns raised by Adelante parents regarding the possibility of moving Adelante’s sixth-grade classes to Kennedy Middle School. 

We would like to clear up an apparent misunderstanding:  The Board is not voting on any proposal regarding moving Adelante’s sixth grade to Kennedy at the Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 board meeting.  (Board agendas are posted 72 hours prior to meetings, and can be viewed at www.rcsdk8.net/schoolboard). 

The Board will talk about overcrowding at Adelante as part of Discussion Item 8, an update about work being done by the Board’s Expansion Committee to address a variety of issues facing the district.  These issues include high demand for Orion School and Adelante School, and over-enrollment at Hawes School, among other things. No specific proposal has been made to the Board regarding Adelante, and no decision will be made at the Wednesday school board meeting.

Some background on this issue may be helpful to parents of students at Adelante Spanish Immersion School and other members of the community:

  • Deputy Superintendent John Baker and School Board Trustees Shelly Masur and Alisa MacAvoy and I recently held an initial meeting with parents at Adelante Spanish Immersion School to discuss possible solutions to over-enrollment.  Principal Linda Montes also met with parents recently to provide further information about this issue.
  • Adelante currently has 21 more students enrolled than stipulated by a study done when the building was remodeled. At that time, the state provided funding that allowed for K-3 class sizes to be capped at 20 students to 1 teacher.
  • The growth at Adelante is primarily due to increased class sizes that are a direct result of the massive budget cuts from the state over the past five years.  Most classes in the district now have close to or about 31 students, and this will not change unless the state significantly increases funding to the Redwood City School District.  
  • When class sizes increased, the total number of students on the Adelante campus increased accordingly.  Because of the popularity of the Spanish Immersion program, just about every available student spot at Adelante has been filled.
  • A group of Adelante neighbors complained to the district about problems with traffic congestion in the area, and the District found that a study done when the building was expanded stipulated that the maximum number of students served by the school would be 546 students on the campus.  Adelante currently has 567 students enrolled.
  • Adelante neighbors have reported parents blocking driveways, hitting cars, and walking on their property, and raised concerns about safety if an emergency vehicle needs to get to a home during drop-off and pick-up times. The District wants to be a good neighbor, and does not want local citizens experiencing damage to their property, or having their safety compromised.  The District has an obligation to address the problem.

 

Therefore, the district must reduce the number of students at Adelante, and there are only two viable options we have been able to identify:

  • Move the 6th grade to Kennedy, thereby reducing the number of students by approximately 60.  This is a change for students who were previously not expecting to attend Kennedy until 7th grade.
  • Offer two kindergarten classes, instead of 3, reducing the number of students by 31.  This may have a negative impact as it may result in increased combination classes in upper grades due to student attrition.

 

Regarding these options:

  • Reducing the number of students in each class is not an option. The district can no longer afford to staff classrooms at a ratio of 20-25 students per teacher, as it did in the past when funding was higher.
  • Moving to a different campus [other than Kennedy] in the district is also not an option.  Enrollment is on the rise at nearly every school in the district. Adelante is not the only school facing space challenges.  There is very little classroom space available throughout the district, and there is no building that could house Adelante at a different location.  During the 2011-12 school year, a committee of parents, teachers, community members and District administrators worked extensively to address issues arising from the District’s growing enrollment.  The Board’s Expansion Committee is currently working on possible solutions to a range of challenges, and this will be part of the discussion at tonight’s Board meeting.
  • The District is considering options to possibly open a second Spanish Immersion school within the District, but no site has yet been identified.   If that were to occur, the site would primarily meet the needs of students not yet enrolled in Adelante.


The two options identified by the district  - to move the sixth grade to Kennedy, or to reduce the number of kindergarten spots at Adelante - each have pros and cons.

The District wants Adelante parents to understand the ramifications of each option, and to provide feedback. Neither is a perfect solution, but a solution is necessary. If parents can develop a viable alternative, the District will consider it.  However, the District cannot consider any option that will increase operational costs either for Adelante School or the District, or that will not reduce the total number of students to a maximum of 546 students.

The district is very committed to hearing from parents on this issue - that is why we held a parent meeting, and why we have been in communication with parents about this important issue.

I welcome your feedback.  Please feel free to contact me at jchristensen@rcsdk8.net.

 

Sincerely,

Jan Christensen

Redwood City School District Superintendent

 

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Mark November 14, 2012 at 08:16 PM
This is a typical numbers game and not at all considering the impact to the students of the Adelante Spanish Immersion program. In 2007, my wife and I choose Adelante as our FIRST choice for our daughters over Roy Cloud and Clifford with the expectation that the immersion program would be K-8. However, the year after registering our eldest we found out the 7th-8th was removed. We were unhappy with the decision, but with the assurance of school administration, we felt that as long as the program continued up to the 6th grade, in the same environment, the immersion program would still be successful (vital that students be taught in both languages and have all the tools and support at arms reach) . My daughter who is now in the 5th grade is very upset, like us, that she maybe forced to leave the school early. I feel very deceived by this whole issue. The Superintendent blindsided parents with this news on November 1, 2012 giving us little to no time to discuss viable options. Traffic is an issue, but we had a Stanford University study done and have implemented programs that have improved the issue this year and will continue to find better solutions. If the Board votes this change, I would recommend future Adelante parents to reevaluate enrolling into this program because of its unknown future of success.
Julie November 14, 2012 at 08:48 PM
FYI, the district is not considering opening a second spanish immersion program in our district they actually have already decided to do so and have disclosed the location. It is scheduled to open in the fall at the John Gil campus. I don't understand why Jan feels the need to always keep the public in the dark until the last moment! She is really the problem in our school district. I really hope the board listens to the parents and postpones their vote on the 27th to give the Adelante community an opportunity to come up with a viable solution everyone will be happy with. Adelante is a wonderful school due to the amazing principle, teachers, staff, students and parents. I'm sure if given the opportunity we can all work together to resolve the issue. After all we are more like a family not just a school.
Mrs. G. November 15, 2012 at 03:31 AM
"Reducing the number of students in each class is not an option. The district can no longer afford to staff classrooms at a ratio of 20-25 students per teacher, as it did in the past when funding was higher." This statement isn't true. There are multiple classrooms at bilingual schools in Redwood City that have fewer than 25 students (some under 20). Is this equitable?
Mark November 15, 2012 at 06:33 AM
My wife just got back from Board Meeting very upset. The decision was already made to remove the 6th grade and they are just going through the motions. It is very disappointing when your own principle does not support her students and parents. Ever since she started working in the district office on Fridays it seems that we have lost our voice. She should continue to work full time downtown with Jan. We need a principle with integrity and not bully her staff into whatever the superintendent's wishes are. We need a principle that will communicate with us openly and not lie to us. It is time for change and that looks like it starts with changing the entire School Board in order to remove Jan. We need a superintendent that does not bully or threaten our teacher, administrators, and principles as well. Please tell me why we voted for Measure W to pass if we can't actually use it at our school to lower our class sizes?
Lou Covey, The Local Motive November 15, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Mrs. G, I think what the district is doing is sending students to other schools where there is room. That's what the parents are upset about.
Judi Mahoney November 26, 2012 at 06:51 AM
Mark is very right. The problem IS the district office---number 1 and 2...the puppet master. You bet decisions are made and they just go through the motions! Teachers are lied to all the time....morale is unpalatable---seems the board has been kept in the dark for years about personnel screw overs...why should parents think they matter either?

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