SLO trustees approve new site for Teach Elementary School

Teach Elementary School, a San Luis Obispo school for academically accelerated fourth-to-sixth grade students, will move to a new campus by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to support a recommendation made by Superintendent Eric Prater to move the school to the old Pacheco school site on Grand Avenue.

Teach Elementary has been sharing a campus with Bishops’ Peak Elementary on the northwest side of the city, but the space has become crowded as the schools have grown.

Trustees also voted in support of Prater’s recommendation to provide enrichment curriculum for advanced learners districtwide and to provide one-on-one technology devices, such as netbooks or tablets, to students in third through sixth grades at all schools.

“The program piece is the most important piece of what we are doing tonight,” said school board member Chris Ungar, who said he has been long concerned about meeting the needs of district students who have not been identified as gifted or accelerated learners.

The decision to move Teach Elementary concludes a tumultuous 10-month process that began in February when the district considered closing Teach Elementary in part because of capacity limits at its existing campus.

A committee, named the Accelerated Learning Committee, was appointed by Prater to find solutions to the space shortage after parents and community members expressed outrage at the possibility of closing the school.

The recommendations approved by the school board Tuesday mirror the recommendations made by that 18-member committee. It will cost the district $200,000 annually to operate the new school site, plus $160,000 in improvements to get the campus ready for students in the fall. The cost of providing one-on-one technology to student in third through sixth grades is still unknown.

A large portion of the Grand Avenue school site, just south of the Cal Poly campus, is leased to the SLO Classical Academy through 2018. However, parts of the campus that the academy has been using, including a multipurpose room, are not on a longterm lease. The district plans to take back some of those areas.

“This is not ideal for us in several ways,” said Susie Theule, executive director of the SLO Classical Academy. “But we are willing to work with the district.”

Theule told the school board Tuesday night that she is concerned with the increased liability resulting from two schools sharing the same site. She said she was also concerned with security issues posed by adding students to the campus who would be in a different program. The private SLO Classical Academy has 300 students enrolled. Teach Elementary will bring more than 100 additional students to the campus.

“I acknowledge that there will be impacts,” said Walt Millar, board president. “I don’t see this as a crowded campus situation.”

District staff said the campus is built to accommodate up to 650 students.

Moving Teach Elementary to the new campus will also dislocate several other tenants, including some charter schools, a preschool and the University of San Luis Obispo School of Law. The district is working with those tenants to relocate them to other sites in the school district.

Kylee Jacobson, director of Love To Learn Preschool, is one those tenants who will be displaced. Jacobson said she was told that she would have to vacate her spot by June.

“I hope that my school isn’t pushed off to the side,” Jacobson told the school board.