McK School Board OK’s Major School Change For Morris, Dow’s

Jack Durham
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.)

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3 Comments

  1. California Conservative said:

    Fixing a problem by created another problem. A very simple solution could have been devised but the board went overboard with this “solution”.

  2. California Conservative said:

    My email to the superintendent:

    I am writing you regarding the school
    board decision to change the existing school structure because of the lack of
    enrollment at Morris school and the over-crowding of Dows Prairie School. My first concern is the increased traffic
    that will swamp the pickup and drop off for children at Dows Prairie which is
    already congested as it is. Along with
    that is the concern for potential increased pedestrian traffic along with
    increased vehicle traffic. Dows Prairie
    road has few sidewalks and Central Avenue is a 45 mph speed limit. I’m not sure how many parents will be walking,
    or do walk, their children to school currently but an increase in traffic and
    foot traffic will only increase the potential for an accident or injury.

    Increased enrollment will also make
    special events like Christmas plays a nightmare for parking. Dows Prairie is already a difficult place to
    find parking with the current enrollment and will only further the problem. I question if any on the school board have
    even monitored the school during pickup, drop off and special event times. If so, I question your judgment as to why you
    didn’t view additional traffic and congesting as a potential hazard.

    It seems the problem was created when whoever
    decided to start the Spanish immersion program at Morris school. My wife and I personally do not want our
    children at this point to learn a language we cannot speak. I think the school at this age should focus
    on more important things like teaching children to speak proper English, write
    properly and focus on mathematics. There
    are plenty of high school students that enter in to college who have to take
    remedial courses due to not getting the level of education needed to graduate
    at college expected levels. To put it
    simply, the school board is trying to fix a problem they created by creating
    another problem.

    This enrollment problem is as simple a
    situation as getting sand in your eyes at the beach on a windy day but the
    solution proposed is as preposterous as suggesting all the sand be removed from
    the beach. When I attended Morris school
    as a child we had the Gate program. I do not know if that program still exists
    but it was designed for students who needed to be challenged more than what
    they were getting during normal instruction time. The same could be applied to the Spanish immersion
    program. Set aside a portion of the day
    for the students whose parents opted in to the Spanish immersion program and
    the need to reconfigure and anger the parents of students vanishes.

    When it comes to information received about
    this transition, I have to say I have had little to no information until after
    this decision was made by the board. I
    may have received messages on my phone about meetings but I work long hours and
    am not able to attend easily. The
    impression I and others seem to have is that this bureaucrat-like decision was
    already made by the board but to be fair, the board had to listen to objections
    of parents before you continued on with your decision expecting that later
    parents will come around to see the genius of your plan. It seems that in today’s digital world some,
    any sort of communication designed at getting feedback other than public
    meetings would have shown that the board really cared about what parents
    thought. I’m sure very few people do not
    have access to a smart phone or internet where an online survey to parents
    could have been set up for the board to gather feedback that can be accurately
    measured. Or to ensure no one is left
    out, a survey could have been mailed out to gather feedback. I would encourage the board to reconsider its
    decision and revisit this issue with hopes that you will, at the very least,
    send out some sort of survey to measure how many parents are and are not in
    support of your reconfiguration.

    A concerned parent,

    Joshua Woods

  3. Brian Murphy said:

    So the Spanish Immersion Program will continue to be a scab on the district that wont ever heal.

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