Though many options were discussed at Wednesday night's meeting of the Redwood City School District Board of Trustees, it appears everyone involved is still at a loss in how to deal with overcrowding at Adelante Spanish Immersion School.
Adelante is reportedly 21 students over the agreed-upon maximum capacity when the facilities were built. Parents, neighbors and district trustees and staff have said the number of students on campus is creating a safety hazard - both on campus and off, for neighboring homes during pick-up and drop-off times - and needs to be reduced.
Recently, the school board formed a small sub-committee, called the District Expansion Committee, to deal with overcrowding and increasing enrollment district-wide. The committee consists of trustees Shelly Masur, John Baker and Alisa MacAvoy, with the assistance of Superintendent Jan Christensen.
The committee members said they have been visiting school sites such as Adelante, John Gill and Kennedy and meeting with staff and parents to discuss potential solutions to the site's enrollment and crowding issues.
Some ideas presented to help reduce the number of students at Adelante have been to limit kindergarten enrollment, or to move the sixth-grade classes to Kennedy Middle School, which many parents are adamantly against.
Another idea is to try and create a second Spanish Immersion program at another site, either as a "satellite school" of Adelante or as a second school. One campus they have been exploring for that idea is John Gill Elementary.
Though some parents are convinced that decision has already been made, Christensen insisted during Wednesday night's meeting that all options presented are still just ideas, and no decisions have been finalized.
"Maybe I’ve given the impression that we already have a recommendation to vote on, but the truth is, we don’t," Christensen said to a room packed full of parents Wednesday night. "We need to have more discussion."
Masur echoed Christensen's statement.
"What seemed to be some easy fixes have turned out to be much more complicated than we originally envisioned them to be," Masur said, explaining that, after the night's discussion was over, the sub-committee would be continuing both "internal and external" discussions before a recommendation and vote would take place at a future meeting, most likely in December, in advance of the district's Schools of Choice enrollment period in January.
Parents, teachers, students and principal speak out
At least 10 speakers took the podium to address the school board on their feelings about the options on the table for reducing the student population at Adelante Wednesday.
Most parents spoke out against moving the sixth grade to Kennedy, citing studies that an early transition from elementary to middle school could be traumatic for the young students, and saying they worried it would also hurt the progress of the students' immersion skills.
Another parent pointed out that, for some, moving Adelante's sixth grade to Kennedy would mean two school transitions, two years in a row for some.
"Not all Adelante students go on to attend Kennedy," he said, meaning that his child would have to change schools from Adelante to Kennedy one year, and then from Kennedy to his neighborhood middle school the year after that.
At one point, a group of four young students took the podium, asking the school board not to take the sixth grade out of Adelante.
"We're too little to be in school with all the big seventh- and eighth-graders. And we'd have to leave our friends," the kids said. "And, seventh- and eighth-graders can be a bad influence. So we might become bad kids," they added, prompting a laugh from both parents and trustees.
A kindergarten teacher from Adelante spoke and she also felt the prospects had not been communicated to Adelante parents enough.
"Not all parents know [about the idea of moving the sixth grade to Kennedy] – it’s very much an upper-grade issue right now," she said. "A lot of my kindergarten parents don’t know about this, so I think the word needs to get out to our families more."
At the end of the Expansion Committee discussion, Adelante principal Linda Montes took the podium.
Even Montes appeared to be at a loss at what to do, but she said a "programmatic" approach should be key - doing not only what is best for the campus, facilities and students, but what will keep the integrity of the Spanish Immersion program intact.
"I really am trying to look at all options, and I have to do it programmatically," she said. "If there’s a solution out there, I wish I had it, because I would do it."
Montes mentioned that Adelante had been given around $93,000 in Measure W funds - but that wasn't even enough to add one full-time teacher to the school.
"It's not just the salary you have to factor in - there's the benefits and everything else too," she said. "Plus, I don't think it's fair to spend the entire amount of Measure W funds on one grade."
In the end, the trustees tried to assure the audience that they would continue earnest discussions with all staff and parents, and they thanked everyone for their comments and ideas.
"[We know] we need to do what’s best for the kids, and make sure that the programs we offer maintain their robustness," said Masur.
Patch will continue to follow this story.
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