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MUSD to face reconfiguration; Major change to Elementary school structure

MCKINLEYVILLE- Both elementary schools in McKinleyville will be restructured next school year. The McKinleyville Union School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan Wednesday that will have all elementary students attend grades at both Dows Prairie and Morris Elementary.

Although the exact plan has not been decided, Dows Prairie will most likely serve the younger students, kindergarten through second, and Morris to serve third through fifth. Under the adopted plan all students will be able to take part in the language program, but the language immersion program will be modified. The schools will be a combination of traditional and language immersion.

The special meeting held at McKinleyville Middle School's multipurpose room was packed with parents, teachers and students. More than a hundred community members attended the meeting with 50 people commenting on the proposal.

Currently, both Dows Prairie and Morris serve K-5, with Morris as the only school with a language immersion program. All students until the second grade can enter into the program, but they can not enter after second grade unless they have background in the language. School officials said that because of the system, students who do not stay with the program or start with it, are sent to Dows Prairie. This has caused the elementary school to have increased enrollment and packed classrooms.

Board President, Brian Mitchell, said he approved the plan because he believes there is a large inequality between both schools. He said the boards largest concern is at Dows Prairie, the only school with special education program.  "All the special education students can only go to Dows Prairie," said Mitchell. He said that does not give them the opportunity to learn spanish.

Parents spoke on all sides of the issue, but many urged the board to keep the language program in tact.

A parent of two Morris Elementary students, Crystal Fetzner said she has seen the program benefit both of her students.  "My kindergartner loves it. She comes home speaking Spanish everyday," she said.

Under the reconfiguration the program will be modified. Students in 3-5 will spend 30 percent instead of 40 percent of their school time speaking Spanish. Mitchell said the program will not be watered down. "I think we're just changing it in a manner of instruction that better meets the needs of all students."

With the plan in place, Amy Spallino a parent of three Dows Prairie students, said she will have to split her time between three separate schools, one at the middle school and one at each elementary. "I would have to go from one school to another," she said. "My husband works nights and weekends and I'm pretty much it."

Middle school sixth grade teacher, Marcy Howe, said she sees students adjust to middle school in a matter of days and said she does not believe it will be a problem for students. "It's not as big of an issue as some might think," she said.

The school board will be working out the details of the change in the upcoming months.