School board to mull options for housing Alameda Community Learning Center

School board to mull options for housing Alameda Community Learning Center

Michele Ellson

Members of Alameda’s Board of Education will weigh in Tuesday on which campus or campuses they think the Alameda Community Learning Center should call home next year.

School district staff is asking for the board’s permission to offer the 18-year-old district-created charter school space on three separate campuses – Wood Middle School, the former Woodstock Elementary School and Encinal High School. Alternatively, they are asking board members to consider two other options – adding five portables to the Wood campus in order to keep the charter school there, or moving the entire school to Woodstock, along with its sister school, the Nea Community Learning Center.

The district is legally required to provide preliminary classroom space offers to its three charter schools by February 1. (The Bay Area School of Enterprise charter high school, which is leaving at the end of this school year, had opted to sign a lease instead of going through the traditional process.) Alameda Community Learning Center educates about 300 of Alameda’s roughly 1,100 charter school students, who in total make up about 10 percent of the district’s total enrollment.

District staffers want to move the school – or shrink its presence on the Wood campus – to make room for new programs the school plans to implement as part of a restructuring plan. Since Wood has failed for four years to make test score targets required under the federal No Child Left Behind law – which applies to schools that receive supplemental federal aid because 40 percent or more of their students come from low-income families – the school’s leaders were required to consider a host of options that included restructuring, firing teachers, submitting to state control or becoming a charter school.

The former Chipman Middle School, which was faced with similar choices in 2008, was transformed into a charter school. Wood’s leaders want to refocus that school’s curriculum around science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) and to reduce class sizes, changes that will require five more classrooms than Wood is already using, district staffers said in a presentation on the proposal that will also be offered Tuesday.

At an emotional meeting on January 14 – which brought to the surface some brewing resentments between the charter’s families and the ones at their current host campus – parents and some of the charter school’s staff who had fought the move and dismissed the Wood space as inadequate when the district offered it last year told board members they had invested more than $100,000 in making it suitable for their use and that they didn’t want to be forced to move again.

The Alameda Community Learning Center was moved last year from the Encinal High School campus, its home of 17 years, to make space for the district’s new Junior Jets middle school magnet program – a program that was billed as a non-charter middle school alternative for West End families and one of several “choice” programs the district has put in place in an effort to grow enrollment.

In addition to a new educational focus and smaller class sizes, a restructured Wood Middle School would implement a professional learning communities program that Superintendent Kirsten Vital unsuccessfully sought to mandate district-wide as part of a contract deal with teachers. The new STEAM program would be implemented in the 2014-15 school year for what district officials expect will be a smaller number of students than Wood now educates.

The renewed battle over housing the middle and high school charter is only the latest in a series of skirmishes over space that have taken place as the district restructures and expands school options while simultaneously eliminating spaces it considered too dangerous to use or costly to maintain.

In 2010 Alameda Unified abandoned the former Miller Elementary School site on Singleton Avenue to avoid what staff characterized as hundreds of thousands of dollars in water and sewer line upgrades, forcing the district to move Island High School to the Woodstock campus and the Woodstock Child Development Center preschool, which had also been housed there, to the former Longfellow Elementary School campus.

The following year, district staff asked the Nea Community Learning Center charter to split its program across two campuses, which its leaders grudgingly agreed to do; its grade school program shares the former Chipman Middle School campus with its successor, The Academy of Alameda Middle School charter, while Nea’s middle and high school students remained on the Longfellow campus, which they share with the Woodstock Child Development Center.

In 2012, district leaders shuttered and fenced off much of the Historic Alameda High School campus, saying it would collapse in a major earthquake and that its seismic safety shortcomings prohibited students of any age to be housed in it; the district moved its adult school classes to the Woodstock campus and district headquarters into leased office space.

Unlike previous years, when the space offers were handled administratively and presented to the board as a fait accompli each May or June, district staffers have offered an open, public process that will allow families to have their say about what should be done and lean more heavily on board members in deciding the schools’ fate. On Tuesday district staff will formally ask the board to sign off on a decision to offer the charter space on different campuses – something administrators didn’t do when they split Nea in 2011, a review of school board meeting agendas showed.

One of the alternatives district staffers are proposing – moving both Nea and the Alameda Community Learning Center to Woodstock – would reunite Nea students and offer the big meeting space that is a central piece of both schools’ programs but is now lacking at the latter school. But it would also require the district to move Island High to Longfellow and adult school classes either to Nea’s former space on the Chipman campus or to a combination of space there and at nearby elementary schools.

Keeping the Alameda Community Learning Center on the Wood campus would require the district to install five more portables on the campus, which could cost around $350,000, the district’s presentation on the space proposals says.

California school districts typically allocate space to charter schools on a year-to-year basis. Existing charters make their initial space requests by October 1 and the district makes preliminary space offers by February 1 and final offers by April 1. Charters have 30 days to accept or reject the offers.

In addition to discussing space for the charter and changes at Wood, the board will also conduct a hearing Tuesday to consider renewal of The Academy of Alameda Middle School’s charter. Board members could approve a five-year extension of the school’s charter at its next meeting.

Comments

Submitted by Bara Waters (not verified) on Wed, Jan 29, 2014

The 2 portables placed on Wood's campus last year to help house ACLC cost $15,000/each. How is it that 5 additional portables on Wood's campus would suddenly cost $350,000? 5 additional portables at $15,000 would cost about $75,000, not $350,000. District staff is trying to paint the option of ACLC remaining at Wood one more year as expensive when in fact it would be far less expensive than moving multiple educational programs around like a game of musical chairs. Basic common sense dictates to wait until the Master Facilities Plan is completed later this year before any more programs are moved!

Submitted by Alamedaparent (not verified) on Thu, Jan 30, 2014

Based on the presentation at Tuesday's School Board Meeting, it seems that there is some seriously fuzzy logic going on here. Wood admitted that it is projecting less students next year, due to graduating a large 8th grade class, and 6th and 7th grade having dropped significantly (probably due to parents requesting other schools to avoid a program improvement school.) So why do they need ADDITIONAL classrooms for less students? They don't. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, Wood won't see an increase in enrollment next year. As a taxpayer in the city, I really question AUSD's irresponsible shuffling around of as many as six schools to accommodate ONE single school that can't even make a valid case for needing additional space. Need is one thing, want is another. They can run their new program as is. I would rather see our tax money spent on actual education, not serial "relocation" costs. AUSD needs to realize....fast...that if they want the community to support a facilities bond measure in the fall, then they need to show some fiscal responsibility!

Submitted by haskidsinausd (not verified) on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

Don't fall for the myth of "declining enrollment at Wood" again! Remember, that's how ACLC found themselves in a space that completely surprised them by being only 55% of what they actually needed. Wood's enrollment has been strong (the District had to forcibly divert 100 students when it became clear there was no way ACLC would fit, at all, last year). By the way, our entire District is in Program Improvement, thanks to the ridiculous No Child Left Behind mandates. Our Alameda parents are smart enough to realize NCLB is not a measure of the true nature of our AUSD schools. Furthermore, I saw a valid case for space made at the Board meeting Tuesday night (you can watch the video if you didn't catch the meeting) Bear in mind that both schools are uncomfortably squished into one space. It'll be more of a de-compression than a spreading out.

Submitted by AParent (not verified) on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

It really seems the school district does not know what it is doing. Does it have a plan at all? How can it keep shuffling students like this? Tax payers have the right to ask what it does with our precious tax dollar. Isn't it wasting money to move things around and around? Each student has the right to be treated equally no matter he/she goes to a normal school or a charter school. The school district must not treat charter school students as second class students.

NCLB may have its flaws. But, it is the law of the land. When you cannot meet a standard, attack the standard itself. Smart. Look around the surrounding area of the school. I do not understand why the school has such an issue. What is the real reason behind the failure? Is smaller class size the real answer? I understand smaller class size helps. But, I also understand resources are limited nowadays. Very Limited. If after another round of painful shuffling we still have the same problem, then what? Why can't we give a successful school a chance to grow.

Submitted by Alamedaparent (not verified) on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

#haskidsinausd: The declining enrollment information is actually from the meeting. (Feel free to watch the video, it is in Item F4, about 6 minutes in.) The district's presentation CLEARLY states that the current enrollment for Wood is 445, and next year's projection is just 367 students.

Submitted by Jane Grimaldi (not verified) on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

The cost of installation of the two portables at Wood School was $153,000 (please see the January 28th BOE meeting, agenda item 8,"Consent Items").

Submitted by ACLC Parent (not verified) on Sat, Feb 1, 2014

I have several issues with AUSD thinking. First of all, Mastik is a school campus which is currently housing a senior center. Why not move the seniors to a building with parking on the Point and move ACLC to a campus it could keep for more than a year or two? Moving would make sense if it was only one school, but the school district is playing musical schools to the detriment of our learners.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Wed, Feb 19, 2014

There exists more AUSD facility options than what we've been presented with, but we need to ask for them.

Example: BOE approved expenditure for QKA's assessment of AUSD's site at Eagle/Everett but still as of today, AUSD staff say they will not be scheduling one. Wait, BOE asked for it but staff won't do it, why??? We should all be demanding right now that our AUSD staff enact the directives from our BOE majority vote on Nov 5, 2013: to complete a master plan which includes all facilities in AUSD, along with dates for public planning/input meetings at each separate facility.

ACLC Parent: AUSD no longer owns Mastick school, it was on a long-term lease to City that was eventually purchased (in exchange for the Tidewater property) as a centralized/municipal senior center serving all of Alameda. There ARE other empty AUSD-owned sites that were not included in Ms. Lara's presentations on facility "options": the Tidewater property (near Del Monte building/Sherman Ave) and the unoccupied site at Eagle/Everett Avenue. The Eagle/Everett property has been vacant for years, and the City has methodically worked to rezone the surrounding neighborhood to increase the area's residential units/population, away from its recent auto-industry past and back to its residential roots. The Eagle/Everett site actively served AUSD from 1891-2007, originally as Everett School and lastly as Island High, with the 20+ years interim as a parking lot for AUSD buses. Additionally its size is approximate to the Main Library's (located 3 blocks away) and therefore could be solving the district's current space problems (not to mention AUSD's future program needs).

AlamedaParent: hasakidinausd concerns are valid because the District gravely mis-projected (by vastly underestimating) Wood's enrollment numbers last year for the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, Wood's strategic improvement of programs have made it a much more desirable school, meanwhile the City has drastically increased the number of new housing units to be built within Wood's boundaries (see new City's zoning schedule of new homes to be built within the North Park Street Area). As to your taxpayer concerns/cost of shuffling schools/keeping under performing schools afloat as a district works to improve them: it fiscally responsible for AUSD to complete a thorough Facilities Master Plan and Alameda's tax-paying residents/families with students deserve such a plan.

Please contact BOE members and Superintendent Vital and ask them to enact BOE's approved request for an "Extra Scope of AUSD Facilities to be included within QKA's Master Plan" (link: http://alamedapublic.novusagenda.com/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=2814&Meeting...)

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