Story of Accelerated School Closing Not Over Yet

closed signIn California, a public school district is interested in closing the only school that meets the needs of GATE students. The reasoning has to do with overcrowding and different philosophical views on education. It appears that the school district is not quite following the guidelines it is supposed to before closing a school.

Teach Elementary is part of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, which is located in San Luis Obispo, California. It is the only accelerated learning school in the entire district. Students who attend Teach are in the 4th through 6th grades. The school accepts all students, and is not exclusive to students who require gifted and talented education (GATE). A lottery system is used to determine enrollment. Volunteers, many of whom are parents who have children that attend the school, teach special electives.

Recently, it became known that the school district was very interested in closing Teach Elementary. At first, it was said that the reasoning had to do with overcrowding. Teach shares a campus with another public elementary school. Some have said that the traffic that comes from parents dropping off their children, or picking them up, has become a “nuisance” to the residents whose homes are near the schools.

A meeting was held where the general public could voice their opinions about whether or not to close Teach. It became apparent that there are people who feel that a school that offers appropriate education to GATE students is “elite” and that its existence could harm the self-esteem of the students who do not attend it.

CalCoastNews notes another big problem. Teach Elementary was created by the state Department of Education. There are a set of guidelines, called best practices, that a school district is supposed to follow before exploring the option of closing a school that was created by the state Department of Education. It appears that the district is bypassing these guidelines.

Education Code Section 17387 says:

It is the intent of the legislature to have the community involved before decisions are made about school closure.

Some feel that the district has already made the decision to close Teach, long before the public meeting was held. Assistant Superintendent Rick Robinett says it is “a premature conclusion” to suggest that the school district is going to close Teach Elementary.

However, Superintendent Eric Prater has issued a recommendation for a one-year moratorium on 4th grade enrollment at Teach Elementary that would begin in the Fall of 2013. There are many who feel that this is a tactic that is being used to shut down the school without technically closing it, (especially if the moratorium on enrollment is extended for more than one school year).

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