District officials say they won’t make mono- and dual-language schools

Woodstock School District 200 will consider ways to close Dean Street Elementary School, but officials won’t move forward with a plan to separate schools by language program.

School board members asked administrators for a rundown of how they might shutter Dean if the board approves a plan to close the school. The Facilities Review Committee, made up of district staff and residents, recommended closing the 350-student school in an effort to cut costs and reduce empty classroom space districtwide.

About 52 percent of parents and residents surveyed by the district supported closing Dean, which would save an estimated $600,000 a year.

Administrators and board members said they will not pursue a proposal from the committee to create separate dual- and mono-language elementary schools, which was opposed by more than 60 percent of people surveyed.

At a series of meetings held in August and September, parents and residents gave feedback on the proposals from the Facilities Review Committee. The school board heard a summary of that feedback at its Sept. 26 meeting at Woodstock High School.

Making separate mono- and dual-language schools “was not supported at our events,” Superintendent Mike Moan told board members. Currently, most of the district’s schools offer both programs.

“I think as an administration, we don’t think this is the right plan for the community right now,” Moan said. “The support obviously wasn’t there.”

At the meetings, many people were concerned the proposal would lead to unintentional segregation. The plan would have designated three elementaries for monolingual students and two for the district’s dual-language program, which offers instruction in English and Spanish. Many students in dual-language are Hispanic.

As for closing Dean, the strongest opposition came from people living in the neighborhood surrounding the school, Moan said. In the event the school closes, he said administrators want to keep as many Dean students together as possible.

“Our recommendation is to keep the kids together programmatically,” Moan said. For instance, students in Dean’s 90/10 program, which has 90 percent of its instruction in Spanish, would be sent to a single school.

“We got some real engagement from the public, and that’s a wonderful feeling, to feel like we’re really getting a sense of what is happening and what people think about some of the elements of the plans,” Board of Education President Carl Gilmore said.

As part of the proposal, board members also will consider repurposing the Dean building for administrative office space and the specialty programs at Clay Academy. The Clay building then would be shuttered.

Administrators will draw up plans to close Dean and present them to the board later this month. Moan said once board members hear the plans, they should come to a decision in November or December if they want any changes to be implemented by the following school year.

“I think [presenting the plan soon] is key because I think then you’re giving yourself meetings before we have to make a decision,” Moan said. “I think that’s important so that the public can have an opportunity to comment and we can go engage the public.”

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