A controversial proposal to close Doyle Park Elementary School, a move thought by some to be dead at least for this school year, will be brought back to the Santa Rosa City Schools board on March 14.
Board President Larry Haenel confirmed Tuesday that the proposal would be placed on the agenda for next week’s meeting. The agenda will be released to the public on Friday.
As part of the Doyle Park agenda item, Haenel said, board members will also discuss the possibility of placing the French American charter school at the Doyle Park campus, should it close.
School district administrators and board members had previously insisted that the two issues were separate, but Haenel said that new information has now linked them.
Haenel said that supporters of the French language charter say they have “298 signups,” parents who say they would enroll their kids in the new charter. What’s more, he said that about two-thirds of those students currently attend schools that are outside the district.
Attracting those kids back to the school district means more revenue for a district that is in “dire financial straits, he said.
“None of this information was made public,” he said. “Now we have another consideration. You have quite a few students from out of district on the sign-up list.”
But critics of the proposal say the district is putting the needs of the French charter school before those of Doyle Park’s Latino majority.
Michele Morales, a local Latina activist and member of the North Bay Organizing Project, said that closing Doyle Park would further segregate the district along ethnic lines.
“The catalyst was absolutely the French charter wanting that campus,” Morales said.
But backers of the French school reject such claims.
Jennifer Schwinn, one of the founders, said the planned school would be inclusive and that current Doyle Park students would be given priority enrollment.
“All Doyle Park students are encouraged to stay and enroll at the French American Charter School, if it would be at the Doyle Park campus,” Schwinn said Tuesday
Morales and several others who support keeping Doyle Park open have called for the district to consider placing a dual-immersion Spanish-language charter at Doyle Park.
The school board will consider whether to direct the district to develop a plan for such a school. A dual immersion program is a two-way language curriculum that seeks to preserve the student’s native language, whether French, Spanish or some other language, while teaching them a second language — English.
Several board members, including Haenel, and Doyle Park principal Kaesa Enemark are scheduled on Monday to visit the Cali Calmecac campus, which has an immersion program. However, Haenel said a Spanish language immersion program, if approved, would likely not start until the 2013-2014 school year.
Santa Rosa school administrators revealed in January a plan to close the 61-year-old Doyle Park school site. On Feb. 22, the school board took no vote after it became clear that it was deadlocked 3-3 between closing Doyle Park and keeping it open. The seventh board member, Frank Pugh, abstained because he lives within the school’s residential boundary area.
Doyle Park school staff had scheduled a community meeting for Thursday to discuss what Doyle Park parents want for their kids’ school. That meeting was canceled Monday after school staff learned that the school closure was back on the agenda.