ENCINITAS — In a special meeting Thursday, it was announced that the Encinitas Unified School District would not pursue the combining of dual language immersion programs at Capri Elementary School. The decision was made after Encinitas Union School Board trustees said school district Superintendent Dr. Timothy Baird should not pursue the consolidation of the program as an option.In what had become a contentious issue, parents, staff and administrators packed the auditorium at Capri Elementary School on March 19 to voices their concerns about possible changes to the dual language immersion programs at two schools in the district.
Dr. Baird first introduced the idea of consolidating both programs at one campus last week. His initial report to the board of trustees two weeks earlier suggested significant changes at both Capri and Paul Ecke Central’s English learner and dual immersion programs.
“I am aware that both schools are more than just the dual language program and this needs to be considered with any changes that may be recommended. I am also aware that even if changes are recommended, transition plans would need to be discussed in depth with families before any final decisions are made,” Baird wrote in an open letter to parents on March 9.
Dual immersion programs at the two schools combine native Spanish speakers and English speakers in order to obtain fluency by the end of their tenure. The program is so popular that entry is held by lottery and there is a substantial waiting list to enter the program according to Baird. Both campuses also have traditional English learner instruction.
The possibility of phasing out English learner instruction at Capri and consolidating the two dual immersion programs on one campus is a response to creating “efficiencies” and “effectiveness in all programs in the district” Baird said when one parent asked why the changes were being considered.
Jason Ballow, a Capri parent, said the “rancor in the community” caused by the issues surrounding changes was “unconscionable.” Ballow said the process of discussing possible changes with the school community before gathering the facts and figures was “putting the cart in front of the horse.”
Preliminary cost savings would come from the elimination of two teaching positions Baird told the audience at a meeting March 13. He then changed that number to one teaching position at the March 19 meeting.
Several parents said the lack of information from Baird put them at a disadvantage. Ballow invoked the “law of unintended consequences” when he told Baird the changes would have detrimental impacts. “I think that’s the path you’re headed down,” he told Baird.
Several dozen parents and a few teachers lined up to ask questions and voice their opinions. Most were opposed to changes in the school’s structure.
Eve Mayall, a parent with two children in the dual language immersion program at Capri, said the “sense of community created at the school gives a sense of stability to students and teachers.” She said she feared that would be lost if children in the English language learning program were sent to other schools.
Parents said they felt their choice was being taken away. “It comes down to choice,” said Karen Brink, a Capri parent. “Many of us feel like this idea has been thrust upon us.”
Jason Yarborough, a parent with three children at the school and another two years from entering kindergarten, concurred. “The choice is being taken away from me and it backs me into a corner,” he told Baird. “We’ve built this school; we deserve to reap the benefits of this,” he said, describing Capri as a “utopia.”
Sydney, a fourth-grade student, said two of the six pillars hanging on the auditorium walls were at issue — “fairness” and “respect.” “I love Capri,” she told Baird, “this is my school and I don’t want to leave.”
“I admire your passion,” Baird told the audience, as emotions ran high at times.