By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal
The La Habra City School District is opening up the discussion on the future of the district, including changing the structure of the nine schools.
According to Superintendent Dr. Joanne Culverhouse, a task force is being created to study the feasibility of changing seven of the schools to a transitional kindergarten-sixth-grade configuration. The two middle schools would then become traditional junior high schools.
The idea was presented for discussion at the School Board meeting last Thursday. Culverhouse explained that she had presented the idea to the teachers and classified staff unions as well as the board.
She added that the district has an opportunity to rethink teaching and learning and that this is an opportunity that may never come around again.
“It is beyond exciting, but more importantly a moral imperative that we owe our students and their future,” she said.
It was explained that the TK-6 structure would match the education structures of all neighboring school districts.
The board echoed the importance of Culverhouse’s suggestion of incorporating the community in this process. They explained while the possibility of the new TK-6 structure is being discussed, it would take a similar configuration as the search for a superintendent. Surveys and focus groups of parents and community members will be conducted.
Board member John Dobson stressed the community involvement is vital.
Culverhouse shared a comment from one of the school administrators that said the change could enable the district to create an “academic powerhouse from TK to 6.”
Further, that “raising and mentoring students and teachers for six consecutive years. Ensuring every student, parent and teacher are provided with the very best.”
Culverhouse explained that it is very likely that the current boundaries will be able to be maintained. She added that some schools could have a specialized focus, like the current dual immersion program, but all schools will maintain the same quality education. Earlier in the meeting, the board adopted a standardized language arts program for the various grades in the district. This ensures the same training is being conducted across the district.
Board President Ofelia Hanson said that something like this restructuring could help with enrollment. She added that the district has been losing an average of 200 students each year. She is hopeful that, if implemented well, this TK-6 structure might make the school district a “destination district” for parents.
Board member Sandi Baltes, who was a teacher and administrator in the district prior to k-6 to its current structure, stressed how the new structure can help with the creation of a “family” environment at the schools. The new configuration would eliminate transitions at third and sixth grades. She explained how students would be able to build a greater feeling of comfort staying at the same school for six years.
The ability of teachers to better collaborate in order to provide consistent, quality instruction for the students.
Baltes added that the new structure would help parents by only having to go to one school to pick up their children and not having to race to another to pick up older or younger siblings.
The next step, according to Culverhouse, is for the 15-member task force to get started on determining the feasibility of this new structure (facilities, teacher assignments, bell schedules, etc.). In addition, surveys will be going out to parents in both English and Spanish. Focus groups will be scheduled and help for parents to share their thoughts and insight regarding this structure.
If the restructuring is officially approved, according to Culverhouse, the earliest it could be implemented would be fall 2018.
Parents and the community are encouraged to share their thoughts and input with the district. More information about the focus groups and surveys will be coming soon.
Culverhouse added that “it is important to challenge ourselves as educators to create excellent institutions of learning to instill hope and positive change in future generations in the La Habra community.”