Panel suggests bilingual school go to K-8

Second grader Giuliana Carrillo works on a project during class in May 2012 at the Dual Language Academy.

Hollister School District teachers, parents, two trustees, several principals, the superintendent and other speakers gathered at a public meeting Tuesday to discuss growing pains at a campus on Santa Ana Road where two schools share space.
The Gabilan Hills site holds the Hollister Dual Language Academy in mostly portable classrooms and the district is considering whether to make the bilingual site—which doubled its number of kindergarten classes this year and runs seventh and eighth grade classes at Marguerite Maze Middle School—a single-site, K-8 campus.
“What I took away from the meetings last week is Gabilan Hills wanted a neighborhood school and HDLA wanted the program,” Trustee Pat Moore said. “They didn’t care where they were. They just wanted to be together.”
Following two meetings inviting public comments Jan. 13 and Jan. 15, district staff and members of the public attending the facilities committee meeting five days later suggested eventually making the academy a K-8 program at the planned new school site near Fairview Road.
Until then, they’re proposing district staff members bring two plans to the board of trustees next week. The district could allow the academy to grow to a K-8 site at its current location and limit enrollment at Gabilan to two classes to ensure the original school stays a viable establishment. The district also could allow the academy to keep K-6 at its current site and to continue to run seventh and eighth grade classes at Maze, with the addition of a vice principal position to help unify the program.
“The parents that I hear from are saying they want a K-8 altogether but there may be parents I don’t hear from,” said Monique Ruiz, the academy principal.
Ruiz submitted a survey to parents asking if they want a K-8 campus for their school but did not have results yet. Speakers noted that letting kids attend K-8 at one site means older students may miss some traditional middle school experiences such as electives, sports, science labs and dances.
To meet space demands, the district suggested these options:
–       Add portables.
–       Flip-flop what side of campus each school controls.
–       Reconfigure attendance boundaries.
–       Keep the academy as a K-8 program at two sites with K-5 at the current location and sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes offered at Maze.
–       Approve the academy as a K-8 site at its current location while limiting enrollment for Gabilan.Staff also mentioned possibly moving Gabilan or the academy to the proposed new school site near Fairview Road, which officials hope could take place in the next three to five years.
Following discussion at the facilities committee meeting, district staff officials eliminated plans to move Gabilan to a new site or to flip-flop the campuses at the existing property.
“Why would you flip?” said parent Christine Martinez.
“If they’re going to move to a new site in three years,” added Michelle Bingman, the president of the Gabilan Hills Parent Club who sat next to Martinez.
For more information, attend the next regularly scheduled school board meeting where trustees will discuss and take action on the topic at a gathering that starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the district office on 2690 Cienega Road.

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