Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Major changes are coming to McKinleyville’s elementary schools in the coming school year.
The McKinleyville Union School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its meeting tonight, April 30, in favor of reconfiguring Morris and Dow’s Prairie elementary schools. More than 160 people attended the meeting inside the McKinleyville Middle School gym and gave testimony for more than two hours about the controversial proposal.
The board decided to have kindergarten through second-grade students attend one of the elementary schools, which will most likely be the Dow’s Prairie campus, although the specific location hasn’t been decided yet. If that location is ultimately selected, then Morris School would become home to third through fifth-grade students. McKinleyville Middle School would remain unchanged and continue to serve sixth through eighth-grade students.
This is a major change for Morris and Dow’s Prairie Schools, which now both serve kindergarten through fifth-grade students.
Students are divided between the two schools based on their parents’ desires to have them learn Spanish, and their skills and abilities to do so.
Morris offers its popular Spanish immersion program, while Dow’s Prairie has a traditional academic program.
Under the proposal approved tonight, both schools would offer Spanish immersion, although students at the third through fifth-grade campus would spend less time in immersion than students at Morris now spend. The 3-5 grade campus students would also spend time in traditional classes.
The decision was spurred by what school officials say is an inequality between Morris and Dow’s Prairie schools.
Because Morris has a Spanish immersion program, new students entering the district after second grade have to attend Dow’s Prairie School because they lack the Spanish skills to enter the program, Dow’s is also the home to most of the district’s special education students.
Dow’s Prairie is now packed, with no extra classroom space, while Morris has excess classrooms.
The reconfiguration approved tonight is intended to resolve these problems.
At tonight’s meeting, some testified in favor of the proposal. As seen at the April 9 meeting, there was a strong contingent of Spanish immersion supporters, who pleaded with the trustees to save the program.
There was also a strong showing from Dow’s Prairie parents and staff, who urged the board to ditch Spanish immersion and have both Morris and Dow’s Prairie be K-5 schools, offering traditional classes with Spanish electives. They presented a petition to the board and gave a spirited presentation.
(More details to come. This is the late-night, post-meeting version.)