Just when you think everything is starting to turn a corner: your neighborhood school is home to the 2015-2016 teacher of the year, your PTA has been rebuilt after a few down years, you have a new crop of excited families, and you’re working on a innovative program to better serve your existing families. There’s always something to throw a wrench in the progress.
Late last week, Ruby Bridges Elementary school found out that Alameda Unified School District had planned on closing two classrooms which meant that two teachers at Ruby Bridges would lose their job a few weeks into the school year.
But even worse would be the disruption to the families and students that would be “diverted” to max out each classroom to its perfect capacity. This classroom optimization fails, of course, to see students as anything more than just a number and a seat when, in reality, those numbers are individual students with individualized needs and Ruby Bridges is home to families with the least resources if they are forced to move to another school and adapt to a new community.
No matter how many times it is said, the decision makers at the District fail to recognize that Ruby Bridges is not like other elementary schools in Alameda. Our community serves a diverse and transitory population of students that doesn’t fit into neat and tidy enrollment deadlines and roundups.
What makes the decision by the District completely misguided is that the way that enrollment was handled at Ruby Bridges for this upcoming year. Due to conflicting enrollment lists the District repeatedly turned away families from enrolling at Ruby Bridges beginning in the Spring to the present. Now because there are not enough students to justify a third Kindergarten class and a fourth Second Grade class the District wants to “consolidate” and close a class in both grades.
Even though there are families that still want to enroll in Ruby Bridges and, historically, because of the families in transition like the Coast Guard, Ruby Bridges is constantly enrolling students throughout the year, but with the optimization there will no longer be room for these families at their home school. Worse still the “consolidation” process will force students and families who have already settled into Ruby Bridges to have to move to another school and make new bonds.
To add insult to injury during this diversion process the District hasn’t appeared to follow its own protocols and procedures on who is the unlucky child to be asked to leave first. Students that have been at the school for two years which automatically makes the school their home school have been asked to leave. Students with siblings enrolled in the school have been asked to leave which would mean that the parents/guardians would have to manage two drop offs at the same time in the morning. Students with McKinney Vento status have been asked to leave which would be in violation of the law. Students that were already diverted before the start of the school year are asked to divert once again. The list goes on. Not only that, none of the families have been informed of their rights to refuse to leave the school leading to confusion and frustration at the inequity of it all.
What has led to this mess of enrollment this year were the fixes that were instituted last year to address specific issues for specific groups of people. The District has created a Frankenstein’s monster of an enrollment system, patching together little pieces of protocol to appease the loudest interest groups a bit at a time. Based on my understanding before this new process there were less than 20 diversions of students across the district. Right now the number is well over 100 diversions. Clearly the fixes have only served to break the process further.
In addition the decision to consolidate the school down to only two Kindergarten classes, mind you the school has historically hosted four, sometimes five Kinder classes, will have lasting consequences on the school for the next five years after that.
If the Board of Education truly seeks to promote equity in the Alameda Unified School District then it will direct staff to allow Ruby Bridges to retain its Kindergarten and second grade classes and continue to enroll students into Ruby Bridges rather than artificially cap Ruby Bridges grade levels at arbitrary and historically inaccurate levels.
If you would like to support Ruby Bridges Elementary in our efforts to reverse the misguided decision by the District to treat our students as seats and numbers as opposed to individuals with individualized needs, you can help by attending tonight’s School Board meeting, or sign on to our letter to the District which can be found here at rubybridgespta.org