Teach school decision might get changed

Superintendent may suggest partial enrollment moratorium and a task force formation

acornejo@thetribunenews.comFebruary 16, 2013 

The controversial decision to potentially close a San Luis Obispo magnet school for academically accelerated fourth- to sixth-grade students could be temporarily suspended Tuesday.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District Superintendent Eric Prater is expected to recommend that the school board approve a one-year moratorium on fourth-grade enrollment at Teach Elementary.

Prater will then create a task force to delve deeper into the issue. 

“If Teach is going to survive, it is probably going to have to be re-engineered and probably find a new location,” Prater said. “For me to support it, it would have to be a kindergarten to sixth-grade continuum.”

Outraged parents rallied and pleaded with the school board to keep the program, which offers accelerated courses and volunteer-taught specialized electives.

The school has 155 students. Enrollment would be reduced to 130 students next year if Prater’s recommendation is approved by the trustees.

“I truly want to give this some time, and I am conflicted around the issue,” Prater said. “It is a stopgap measure, but I have no choice. I either take away computer labs and special education classrooms to accommodate growth and impact everybody, or I do this.”

The district considered closing the school because of a capacity limit at the campus where Teach is located. The school shares a campus with Bishop’s Peak, and a growing number of students enrolled in both schools would lead to an impending shortage of classroom space.

A philosophical debate by some school administrators has also played into the discussion, questioning whether it is appropriate to provide such an opportunity to some students in the district, but not all. Enrollment is limited to a lottery system because of the campus size.

Options discussed by the school board have included keeping the school, phasing it out to allow current students to finish their time there, or closing it altogether and sending those students to Bishop’s Peak Elementary.

Prater said this new alternative was not intended to be a precursor to phasing the school out.
“I just need more time, and I need people to calm down and be objective,” Prater said. “I have been managing a hysteria engineered by a group of parents who think they can bully their way into a decision, and the community and the school board expects me to think straight; I can’t even think straight.”

The task force would be comprised of staff, administration, experts in instruction for high-proficiency students and community members.

The goal would be to have a recommendation to the school board by December.

“Teach Elementary supporters want sustainability in our community, and they have been fighting for that for 30 years,” Prater said. “I can support it if it is doing great things for kids but not if it is at the expense of the whole.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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