Hollister Dual Language Academy designated K-8 school

Fourth grader Malia Chang, 9, learns math in Spanish Thursday at the Dual Language Academy that was recently named a distinguished school.

Hollister School District trustees voted Tuesday to approve a $3.6 million plan that would expand the Hollister Dual Language Academy to a K-8 school at the campus it shares with Gabilan Hills.
The academy already runs a full, nine-year program with K-6 classes at the shared site on 873 Santa Ana Road, and seventh and eighth grades at the nearby Marguerite Maze Middle School.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Jennifer Miller, an academy parent and resource teacher, as she stepped outside of the meeting room after the decision and fought back tears. “It means the community—they’ve finally accepted our school. We’re being allowed to grow to full capacity.”
Recently, enrollment at the bilingual school has grown while Gabilan Hills’ numbers have decreased. In April, trustees voted to allow the dual language immersion program to increase its kindergarten enrollment to 100 students for this school year, a decision that doubled the academy’s number of kindergarten classes.
Staff concerns about space follow enrollment growth at the academy and a statewide effort to make classroom sizes smaller with a target of 24 students for each teacher in a K-3 classroom by 2020-21.
The plan trustees approved at Tuesday’s board meeting would add portables to the site allowing the academy to transition to a K-7 school on one campus beginning in the 2015-16 school year, with all eight grades present in the following one.
Developer fees or Measure M—the district’s $28.5 million general obligation facilities bond—would pay for the changes.
Since the board approved the dual language immersion program in 2006, the academy has run programs mostly from portable classrooms at the Gabilan Hills campus starting with the 2007-08 school year.
“This particular item is something we’ve had several meetings to work through,” said Superintendent Gary McIntire, as he spoke about the action item before trustees voted.
Prior to making this decision, trustees invited the two school communities to share their opinions with the board through special board meetings held at the gymnasium on the campus the schools share.
At the special board meeting Jan. 13, Gabilan Hills parents took to the mic during public comment to express their desire to keep an establishment known for technology, a small student body and a special intervention program as their neighborhood school.
Academy parents spoke Jan. 15 and argued district leaders had initially promised the dual language immersion program would become a K-8 school, when the program started eight school years ago.
“It’s an opportunity the district is giving us,” said Carol Gomez, who teaches second grade at the academy.

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