Delaying Spanish Immersion expansion is among Lake Oswego School Board's options, Wallin says
In an open letter to the community posted to his Facebook page on Saturday evening, Lake Oswego School Board Chair John Wallin said the board is open to the idea of delaying the start of a second strand of the district's Spanish Immersion program.
That expansion is likely to be a frequent topic at a Town Hall meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Lakeridge High School, where several parents have said they will ask the board to hold off on plans to implement the second strand in the 2018-19 school year.
On Oct. 9, the board signaled its intention to move forward with the plan and directed staff to develop options for housing the program. Last month, Joe Morelock, the district's assistant superintendent for academics and student affairs, returned to the board with three possible locations: River Grove, Lake Grove or Oak Creek elementary schools.
All of the options include expanding the Spanish Immersion program for children in kindergarten and first grade in the 2018-19 school year. The strand would then extend through the grade levels in future years as the classes age and eventually continue into junior high.
The first option would house all Spanish Immersion classes at River Grove Elementary. "But they're at 550 students, and they're pretty much at capacity," Morelock said. "This would likely be the most disruptive to the community and the staff, because students would be immediately displaced" due to the addition of the kindergarten and first-grade classes.
The second option — to house the second strand at Lake Grove Elementary — would not immediately displace any kindergarten or first-grade students, Morelock said, although it has the potential to be disruptive as the classes advance through grade levels. According to Morelock, Lake Grove currently has one or two empty classrooms, but the program "would eventually require six."
The third, more complicated option would be to house Spanish Immersion at Oak Creek Elementary. This option is more complex, Morelock said, because of the need to move students during bond-funded renovations at Oak Creek.
But in his letter Saturday, Wallin questioned whether any of the options would work in a way that satisfied board requirements.
"While staff did work as the board directed to find good options for expansion in this year, when combined with the number of programs that already have to move due to work on the bond, I have concerns about whether the proposals meet the test of one of our guiding principles: minimize disruption," Wallin said.
While it's true that the board only requested expansion options, he added, board members "are not locked into selecting one immediately."
"For example," Wallin said, "another option could be stability: maintain the immersion program in its current single-strand configuration for now while continuing to strengthen and support it. This would not affect the existing program or its long term viability and would not result in moving students not in the program from their neighborhood schools."
Wallin's letter drew immediate praise from several community members, all of whom expressed support for delaying implementation of the second strand of Spanish Immersion.
"I do support the option of 'pausing' the decision to expanding language until we have addressed existing capacity issues," Tom Cole said. "We have a complex situation with the moves that will be required as we rebuild our schools, I believe we should hold on expanding all programs, not just (Spanish Immersion), until we have addressed the bond-related moves."
Heidi Hammersley agreed.
"It is encouraging to hear that, as a board member, you are recognizing that expansion of any program that effects capacity — in any of our schools — needs to be carefully considered in regards to how it impacts students and families in our community," she said. "The bond improvements alone will create enough disruption and movement of kids and programs. The best option is to pause until we have space and capacity to best accommodate it so it can be implemented to its fullest potential and be supported by all."
Wallin said he expects "several weeks of public discussion" before the board settles on a final direction for the Spanish Immersion program and said he was looking forward to hearing from the community at tonight's Town Hall, "which may shape these options further."
The meeting, which will be co-hosted by the board and Superintendent Heather Beck, is scheduled to last 90 minutes in the Lakeridge library. Each speaker will be given two minutes to ask their question or state their concerns, and board members will have two minutes to respond.
"If a person has a question that is not addressed due to time limitations," said Christine Moses, the district's executive director of communications, "staff will solicit written questions for future board consideration."
Lakeridge High is located at 1235 Overlook Drive in Lake Oswego.