Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Holbrook and Sequioa students would lose elementary and middle schools under closure recommendations

By Theresa Harrington from On Assignment - ContraCostaTimes.com

Although the Mt. Diablo district’s school closure process was not supposed to hit one community or student population harder than others, two of the recommendations would close an elementary school AND the middle school it feeds into — forcing parents to alter plans for their kindergarten through fifth-graders, as well as for their sixth- through eighth-graders.

The School Closure Advisory Committee has agreed on three possible closure scenarios:
1. Close Glenbrook Middle School, Silverwood Elementary and Wren Avenue Elementary
2. Close Glenbrook Middle School, Silverwood Elementary and Holbrook Elementary; or
3. Close Monte Gardens and Sequoia elementary schools, along with Sequoia Middle School.

The first scenario includes schools in three different middle school feeder patterns: Glenbrook, Pine Hollow (Silverwood) and El Dorado (Wren).

The second scenario, on the other hand, includes two schools in the same feeder pattern: Holbrook and Glenbrook Middle School. Similarly, the third scenario includes the two main elementary schools that feed into Sequoia Middle School — Monte Gardens and Sequoia Elementary.

Holbrook parents rallied in front of their school today, voicing concerns about the potential closure their campus.

Daniela Vega, whose daughter attends third grade at Holbrook, said the school is like a big family.

“It’s just really sad that it’s going to affect our kids,” she said, as she held a sign that said “We love Holbrook.” “These kids are the future and it shouldn’t affect them.”

According to the committee’s recommendation, Holbrook students would be scattered to attend Wren Avenue, Sun Terrace, Monte Gardens and Westwood elementary schools.

Tina Strickland, works as a special education assistant at the school and also has a kindergartener there.

“Our API score went up 50 points,” she said. “And our after-school program won a governor’s award (for fitness). Our school piloted PLC (professional learning communities, which are now taking hold on other campuses districtwide). We have a school garden that other schools come to see. We have Tech Bridge (a Chevron-sponsored program to interest girls in science). It would be really sad if our schoool closes. Most of the teachers have been here a really long time.”

Stephanie Delanoy, a parent and reading specialist at the school, said her children started out at Monte Gardens, but her son didn’t feel he fit “the mold.”

“Both my kids are very high academically,” she said. “We came back to our neighborhood school.”

Parent Lisa Barone said Holbrook serves Coast Guard families that live nearby. Soon, she said, many new families are expected to move in.

“It’s all families that live out here,” she said. “You have to have kids to live in that housing.”

Monica Berg, whose twins attend Holbrook, said many children walk to school.

“Most of our staff bicycles here,” she said. “I hope they (trustees) take that into consideration, because they’re planning to ship these kids to four different schools. It’s going to break our family up. We’re going to have to go clear across town.”

Loraine Cabral said she sent her daughter to Hidden Valley Elementary on a transfer last year, but she was bumped in September. So, she sent her daughter to Holbrook and said she has been impressed.

“Actually, side by side, I don’t see a difference,” she said, as she pushed two toddlers in a double-stroller while walking home with her daughter. “I think it has to do with parent involvement. Her class is challenging to her and she’s one of the advanced students.”

Cabral said the district should give transfer priority to students from closed schools, so that they can go to the school they choose without having to worry about being bumped each year. She also said the district should ask parents which schools they prefer, instead of assigning students based on new boundaries.

Some parents would likely choose schools with free after-school programs, while others may have different criteria for their selections, she said.

“It’s scary to think, ‘what’s next?’” she said. “I hope that when they make the decision that we get told quickly what to expect next.”

Parent Courney Diaz said the district should cut administrators’ salaries, including the superintendent’s, before closing schools.

“They’re too busy making sure they have enough money to live, yet our future is on the back burner,” she said. “That makes no sense.”

Silverwood parents have also been organizing to show the school board and the community how much their school means to them.

Julie Pamer quesions how much money the district would really save by closing the school, since some parents might leave the district. She also worries about children walking along busy Clayton Road, crossing Bailey Road to get to Thornwood, if they have to go to Mountain View Elementary.

Silverood parents held a meeting on Saturday and many were also concerned about “disenfranchised students whose parents don’t know how to transfer,” she said.

Some Silverwood parents also wondered why their school received the lowest rating possible for facilities — a 1 out of 20 — in the committee scoring. The only other school in the district to receive a 1 in this category was Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill.

“It’s 40 years old,” Pamer said, “but it’s well-kept.”

Trustees expect to receive more information about the closure process at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Monte Gardens Elementary multiuse room at 3841 Larkspur Drive in Concord. What feedback would you like to give them?

Article HERE.

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