Meeting About Accelerated School Closing Reveals Much

closed signA school district in California is considering closing an accelerated school. There was a meeting held where people could voice their opinions about why they thought the school should be closed, and why they thought the school should be saved. Things were revealed that are rather shocking.

Teach Elementary is part of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, in San Luis Obispo, California. It is a magnet school that is for academically accelerated students who are in the 4th through 6th grades. Specialized electives are taught by volunteers (who often are parents of students who attend the school).

The school meets the needs of students who qualify for the Gifted and Talented Program (GATE). However, the school does not restrict enrollment to only gifted students. Enrollment is limited by a lottery system because of the campus size.

Recently, it was announced that the San Luis Coastal Unified School District was considering closing Teach Elementary. A school board meeting was held that was three hours long, and in a room crowded with people from the community who were interested in the fate of the school.

On one side, you had people who came to share their experiences with Teach Elementary. This included parents of current students, teachers who had previously worked in the school, and young alumni of Teach elementary. They want Teach to remain open, and spoke very highly of the school. The majority of the speakers were in favor of saving Teach.

On the other side, there were comments from people that I find shocking. Nicole Bowler is the mother of a first grader who attends Bishop’s Peak (a school that shares a campus with Teach). She said:

I am very concerned about my child’s social, emotional well-being, as he approaches fourth grade. While this separation may bring debatable benefit to some students, their counterparts are left with the impression that they are not smart enough or good enough to attend class with their peers.

In other words, she feels that a school that meets the needs of GATE students should close because its existence could hurt the self-esteem of students who do not attend the school. I find this shocking. She is asking for a school to be closed because it could, one day, maybe, make her child’s feelings hurt several years from now if his peers attend the school.

Some have criticized how the school board is handling the issue. They feel that the board is trying to move too fast on a complicated issue. Trustee Kathryn Eisendrath-Rogers pointed out that the school district’s public statement said the potential closure had to do with overcrowding. However it turns out that the reason was a philosophical difference over the value of Teach.

Another school board meeting about this topic will be held on February 19, 2013. It will be held at a new location in order to accommodate more people. I will be interested in seeing what the final decision turns out to be, as well as the reasoning behind it.

Image by Tallent Show on Flickr