Parents and teachers packed the multipurpose room at on Monday night for an open forum about possible changes to Encinitas Union School District’s bilingual Dual Immersion program, which mixes Spanish and English speakers in the same class. The scene was a familiar one, as last week for an informational session about the same topic.
The issue has been on the front burner in recent weeks after the the Dual Immersion programs at Paul Ecke Central Elementary and Capri Elementary, which are the only two schools that offer it. If the two programs were consolidated, Capri could possibly become dedicated to Dual Immersion only. Under that proposed idea, any parent who did not want to put their child in the Dual Immersion program would have to enroll at another school.
Superintendent Timothy Baird said though saving money is not the primary motivation, consolidating the programs could save the district one staff position and lead to “better effectiveness and efficiency.” Baird also stressed that at this point, the change is only an idea—but Monday night, Capri parents made it clear they thought it was a bad idea.
Just before the forum began, volunteers were handing out literature urging parents to go online and sign and sign petition demanding that the school board drop the idea of making changes at Capri. At the time of press, that online petition had 36 signatures. The flyer also directed parents to the Facebook page of Choice for Capri, a newly formed group that wants to keep the school as it is now.
Moments later inside the school, dozens of parents, a few teachers, and one former school board member stood in line waiting for their turn to publicly express their disapproval. Speakers said that they felt the district had blindsided them with this proposed change, and that it hadn’t done an adequate job of considering how the change would impact families. As one mother pointed out, if she had to start driving her children to another school, that would amount to an extra 2,362 miles per year—which is the distance from Encinitas to West Virginia. Two local real estate agents also said they believed the change would negatively impact nearby property values.
Several parents also said this all boils down to having a choice when it comes to enrolling kids in Dual Immersion or English Only. Turning Capri into a school strictly for Dual Immersion takes away a parent’s choice, many speakers said.
Parents also said they wanted their children to have the experience of attending a neighborhood school, and felt that would be lost if the change took place. One Capri fourth-grade student echoed those thoughts saying, “I love Capri, this is my school and I don’t want to leave.”
Though the overwhelming majority of the speakers were opposed to the idea, a couple of parents and one Dual Immersion teacher said they had mixed emotions and were open to considering the change.
Baird said another option on the table is to leave the Dual Immersion programs as they are, and explore ways to make changes within the current structure. He also said the district would need to gather more information and community feedback before it could present anything to the school board, which could happen as soon as May.
Baird acknowledged that the issue had emotions running high, but added that it was also a good indicator of how invested parents are.
“Wherever you fall on this issue, parents are here for the right reason: It’s all about what’s best for our kids.”