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Schools contend with Spanish immersion need
December 19, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

As demand for Spanish immersion program expands in Redwood City, school district officials are considering a grade configuration shakeup by sending Adelante sixth graders to Kennedy Middle School.

Enrollment at Adelante Spanish Immersion Elementary School has grown in the past three years to be close to 600, over the 540 student capacity limit for the facility. Since the school is one of choice, most students are driven, which increases neighborhood traffic. Neighbors have complained the traffic would prevent emergency vehicles from accessing the area if needed. As a result, the district is considering relocating Adelante’s sixth grade students onto Kennedy Middle School.

"We just have too many students on the Adelante campus,” said board President Shelly Masur, who added it’s a safety issue.

The campus was at 472 students during the 2007-08 school year and currently houses 567, according to a staff report. Budget cuts leading to increased class sizes is the primary reason for the increase. More students has led to more cars on the neighborhood roads. Redwood City agreed to install speed bumps on Mitchell Way to slow traffic, according to the staff report.

To reduce students at the school, the superintendent and two trustees worked with staff and parents to come up with two possible solutions: Limiting incoming kindergartens to 60, 30 less than normally allowed, or relocating the sixth grade class to Kennedy. The latter is the recommendation from the principal and trustees before the board Wednesday.

Limiting the incoming students would result in a long-term need for combination classes in the upper grades which neither the principal nor teachers supported in their statements. Moving students to Kennedy, however, would open up space at Adelante while allowing students to continue with the immersion model of having core classes in both Spanish and English, according to the staff report. In addition, those students would then have access to physical education and an elective course. Kennedy currently offers the immersion program for seventh and eighth grade students.

If approved, sixth grade students would be housed in a mostly self-contained area of the campus.

In a November letter signed by numerous teachers, staff requested that all alternatives be considered but also that a solution be reached quickly as the topic has become divisive within the school community.

Demand for the immersion program has been growing. If the waitlist would support it, the district would consider offering the program at another site in addition to Adelante in the 2013-14 school year, according to the staff report. If an alternative site is opened, the plan would also be to send sixth graders from that school to Kennedy, according to the staff report.

At the same meeting, the board will approve the first interim budget report.

The board meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19 at the District Office, 750 Bradford St., Redwood City.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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