Teach Elementary should move to old Pacheco site

Teach’s unique program should be preserved and is worth costs

letters@thetribunenews.comNovember 17, 2013 

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District meeting was crowded Tuesday, Feb. 19, for budget discussions. The largest group appeared to be supporters of Teach school, but comments included support for librarians and counselors, too.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Moving Teach Elementary School — an accelerated program for students in grades four through six — from Bishop’s Peak to the old Pacheco campus near Cal Poly makes sense. We believe it’s the most practical way to not only maintain the popular Teach program, but to also allow the school to expand and better define its mission.

Under the proposal, Teach would relocate to the old Pacheco campus in time for the coming school year. It would occupy a wing of the campus, and the remaining rooms would continue to be leased. The main tenant, the Classical Academy, would keep most of the space it currently occupies.

The move would have the immediate advantage of freeing up space at Bishop’s Peak Elementary, where enrollment is growing.

On the downside, the district would lose some of the revenue it earns from leasing rooms at the old Pacheco campus, which has been home to a variety of educational programs, from preschools to a law school.

That loss, coupled with additional operating expenses for Teach, would cost the district an additional $200,000 per year. That’s a significant sum, especially for adistrict that’s been experiencing revenue declines and, as a result, laid off teaching assistants and canceled bus transportation for high school students.

We believe, however, that Teach is a worthwhile investment. The district has a duty to serve all of its students, and that includes the highest achievers who must be challenged academically if they’re to reach their full potential.

While Teach isn’t the district’s only program for accelerated learners, it is one important component that has been highly successful, as evidenced by test scores, awards and the loyal support of parents, students and alumni, who were outraged when the district considered the possibility of closing Teach.

We strongly support the relocation of Teach, with one caveat: If the school’s mission is to be a magnet school for bright, high-achieving students, a greater effort should be made to identify and recruit those students from throughout the district.

Under the current system, enrollment is open to students throughout the district. A lottery is held if applicants outnumber openings.

While invitations to Teach go out to all families in the district, we’re concerned that some talented students may fall through the cracks, possibly because their parents aren’t that aware of the program or don’t recognize that their children are good candidates for it.

A more comprehensive recruitment and selection process could avoid that.

We aren’t suggesting that Teach bar the door to students who fail to meet some arbitrary benchmark on an entrance exam. But if the district is going to invest additional funds to provide an accelerated program, it would make sense to ensure that students who would most benefit from it are identified, perhaps through teacher recommendations and/or grades and test scores, and given the first shot at enrollment.

We strongly urge the San Luis Coastal Unified School District board of trustees to relocate Teach school to the old Pacheco campus, while taking steps to ensure that this magnet attracts all students who would benefit from an accelerated program.

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