About a dozen Wood Middle School and ACLC charter school parents and students gathered outside of Alameda City Hall yesterday evening, before the Alameda Unified School District meeting, to protest the relocation of Wood Middle School special education students to the Encinal High School campus, and the move of ACLC from Encinal to the Wood campus. After the rally outside, they were planning to march into the school board meeting and demand the district reverse course.
Outside City Hall, Bara Waters, an ACLC parent and boardmember, told Action Alameda News that the relocation of ACLC is taking something “that was specific and intrinsic to the program, and destroying it,” because the Encinal location was specially constructed to support the school, a charter school originally initiated by the Alameda Unified School District. “There’s no space [a large central open space] that would replicate that part of our program for us,” she said.
Further, Ms. Waters said, with the Junior Jets program expected to have about 120 students enrolled, there is enough space for both that program and ACLC to remain. The Alameda Unified School District has said that it needs to make room at the Encinal campus for the Junior Jets program.
Waters also challenged the argument that the Junior Jets program needs larger classrooms, saying, “Encinal claimed that some of their classroom spaces were not large enough for full-sized classrooms, but I would question that, because those classrooms are being used for classes all the time, so I don’t know why all of a sudden they are no longer useable or no longer appropriate. Many of the classrooms that we use in the ACLC space at Encinal were much, much smaller than the classrooms that they were claiming were not big enough for their classes. As a whole, our school has said all along that our number one choice would be to stay in the location we are in because it was a space that was designed very specifically for our program eighteen years ago, and it was a space we had been very happy in. We certainly were not wanting to displace Wood students. No one at ACLC was in favor of this move from the beginning.”
A press release announcing the rally suggested that the school district had intentionally pitted ACLC and Wood families against each other at the outset of the relocation effort, in an effort to ‘divide and conquer’ the families. Waters said, “I hope that’s not the case, I think dividing and conquering is never the right way for a school board that should be responsible to all of our students. These are elected officials that are elected by the parents of charter students as well as the parents of public school students. We feel we’re all in this together, we’re all part of the school population of Alameda. We’re all electing these school board members but they seem to draw a line between the traditional public schools and the public school charters. We see ourselves as very much part of Alameda and wanting to work together with the Wood parents and not displace any Wood students, it’s not in our best interests either. How are they going to fit more than 800 students on the Wood campus?”
Jenya Cassidy, a parent of two elementary school children that would feed into Wood said that the school district wants to move interdistrict students and special education students out of Wood to make way for the ACLC students, “and that’s what we want to stop. If nothing else, they should not be displacing the students that are there because the Wood parents have been involved in making the school better and improving it and more people have come to the school, and those students and special ed students will be displaced. It just seems wrong and discriminatory to be displacing special ed students to fit the charter in.”
Gregory Tolentino, a father of a special education student at Wood told Action Alameda News, “for them to move the students to Encinal without notifying the parents is against the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) procedures.”
He said he first heard about the move via rumors, and not from AUSD special education staff, and only confirmed the rumors after attending school board meetings. He has contacted a non-profit that provides support to special education families for guidance.
Vicki Meade, a Wood school parent, said that it’s disconcerting to have to deal with the move, considering that Alameda is known throughout the Bay area for having a good school district, especially for those coming from San Francisco or Oakland.
Even if the parent coalition succeeds in getting the Board of Trustees to reverse their previous decision, it may be too late. Bara Waters told Action Alameda News that ACLC administrators are spending this week packing up, because the school district told them to they had to move by July 1st.