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Spanish-English charter school moves forward, without location

Santa Rosa City Schools poised to approve elementary this month

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 7:04 a.m.

Santa Rosa City Schools officials still are searching for a location for the proposed Spanish-language dual-immersion school, even as district leaders appear poised to approve the school's charter document this month and open the doors in the fall.

Based on parent signatures indicating an intent to enroll their children, the school will likely offer four kindergarten classes in its inaugural year but no first grade. The program will expand one grade per year until it reaches the eighth grade.

The proposed charter document also calls for instruction in kindergarten, first and second grades to be taught 90 percent in Spanish and 10 percent in English. In grades three, four, five and six, the ratio changes to 70 percent Spanish and 30 percent English, and in seventh and eighth grade it will be evenly split.

Technology will be a strong component, school officials said.

"I think what we have tried to do in this charter document is lay a foundation," interim assistant superintendent Gail Eagan said.

Still up in the air is where the school will be located.

Board President Bill Carle said an extensive list of options will be made public "no later than Jan. 22," with a decision to be made in early February. A special meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 6 to address the issue.

The board is expected to vote on final charter language at its Jan. 30 regular meeting.

"What we don't want to do is put ourselves in a position and try to have that (location decision) done on the 30th at the same time we are doing the charter," Carle said.

The school board faced criticism last year when it voted at the same meeting to close Doyle Park Elementary School and open the Santa Rosa French-American Charter School on that campus.

Any move to make room for the Spanish immersion school will affect an existing school or program and is likely to stir debate.

Trustee Jenni Klose questioned whether language in the charter could further encourage a diverse student body.

The proposed document reads that the school "will strive to achieve a racial and ethnic balance among all enrolled students that is reflective of the general population within Santa Rosa City Schools."

Klose called the language "boilerplate."

"I think it's important that we express a commitment in a stronger way," she said. "This has become an issue in our district and lots of districts."

Sonoma County's largest school district was 46 percent Latino and 39 percent white in 2011-12, the latest figures provided by the state. Isolating just the elementary school campuses, the ethnic balance changes significantly, to 60 percent Latino and 28 percent white.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.

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