The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education held a special meeting Thursday dedicated to support for families whose children attend schools scheduled to close at the end of the school year.
Students from Franklin, Jefferson, and Roosevelt Elementary Schools, along with Wilson Middle Schools, are selecting new schools to attend after their schools were slated for closure at the end of the current semester, in the face of budget struggles and dwindling attendance.
While PUSD Board members praised a group of principals from affected schools for their outreach work, Board Member Michelle Richardson-Bailey said candidly, “I hope we have been taking notes, so that next year we do this better.”
A group of principals from affected schools—Dr. Benita Scheckel of Altadena Arts Magnet; Erica Ingber of Longfellow Elementary School; Noemi Orduna of Madison Elementary; and Charlene Tucker of Wilson Middle School—addressed the PUSD Board on efforts made to ease the transition to new schools for parents and students.
They were joined by Trudell Skinner, Ed.D, Family & District Resources Coordinator, who oversees the District’s Open Enrollment Program.
The presentation to the Board noted that each Franklin Elementary family was contacted on November 11 or 12th last year, and each family participating in the Open Enrollment who did not accept a school offer was also contacted between January 27 and February 2, 2020.
Currently, according to the presentation, there are 18 students on the Sierra Madre 7th Grade waitlist. Sierra Madre Elementary School also has one student on its 1st grade waitlist. McKinley Elementary 4th Grade has two students on the waitlist, and three on its 5th grade waitlist.
Jackson STEM 1st Grade has 14 on its waitlist ; seven on the 2nd grade wait list; four on the 4th Grade waitlist, and and four on the 5th Grade list.
District-wide, 275 students, representing 80.9 percent of displaced students, have accepted new school offers and will move to registration at their new campuses, according to the presentation.
At Altadena Arts Magnet, Principal Scheckel worked with Franklin Principal Merian Stewart on a transition letter that was mailed home to all families. A special “phone blast” to all Franklin families was also conducted on December 13.
Special School tours for Franklin families were also arranged in October, and Dr. Scheckel attended a Franklin PTA meeting in December, according to the principals’ report.
The report also noted that as of February 4, 25 Franklin families have enrolled at Altadena Arts Magnet. AAM. Office staff will be calling additional Franklin families to invite them to enroll, and Altadena is also planning a Welcome Event for all Franklin families in April or May.
Longfellow Principal Ingber also worked with Jefferson Principal Amin Oria, to send out a letter to Jefferson families regarding meeting dates and Open Enrollment information and registration.
Principal Ingber and a community assistant attended two parent meetings at Jefferson late last year, and Longfellow provided a special tour for Jefferson families on Dec. 12th, “and continues to encourage families to come to the regularly scheduled monthly school tours,” the report noted.
Principal Ingber will attend a Dual Language Immersion Program (DILP) meeting Friday at Jefferson to talk about Longfellow programs. Currently Longfellow has 130 registrations from Jefferson families, according to the report.
Madison Principal Orduna attended Parent Meetings coordinated by the Office of Enrollment at Roosevelt Elementary, and both Principal Orduna and Roosevelt Principal Dr. Merle Bulgarin sent a transition letter that was mailed home to all families.
As of February 4, 20 Roosevelt families have registered at Madison ES, and Madison Community Assistant and Registrar will do on-site registrations at Roosevelt Elementary on Feb. 27 from 8:30-10 a.m. and 2:30-3:30 p.m.
In addition, Madison Elementary will be hosting a welcome event for Roosevelt Students in May & Roosevelt Family in August, before the fall 2020 semester opens.
Wilson Middle School has also reached out to neighboring schools and made outreach efforts to affected students and parents.
Board Member Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy was also sympathetic to the complaints of parents and students, and said, ‘I hope that every student is accounted for.”
Noting the complications and confusion voiced by parents, she said, “This is our flock of sheep, and this will take time.”
The Board noted that the deadline for Open Enrollment has been extended until March 3, but as PUSD parent Julieta Aragon told the Board, “This is only going to get worse in August,” to which Board member Bailey agreed.
PUSD President Patrick Cahalan also told the meeting that “Parents need to decide early” on school choices.
“Deciding late makes it much harder on school staff,” he said.
PUSD Board Member Kimberly Kenne agreed, saying “We need to hold this meeting every year.”
The Board also discussed the issue of providing transportation for consolidated schools. PUSD Chief Business Officer Dr. Leslie Barnes told the Board that two Pasadena Transit routes could be modified to accommodate Franklin Elementary and Wilson Middle School students. Barnes also said that initial estimates place the cost of creating new school bus routes at $107,000 per route per year. Barnes said final costs would depend on how many, if any, routes the Board might decide it wants.
President Cahalan said he would “err on the side of transportation, but we have to do this intelligently. PUSD is a large district for the number of students it has.”
President Cahalan also brought up the issue of placing on an upcoming agenda the reopening of Roosevelt Elementary School, due to close at the end of the current semester. Only Board member Bailey spoke in favor of the idea, while Kenne opposed the idea.
Board member Lawrence Torres also opposed the idea, and said such a move would be “unfair,” and that the district “would have to reconsider everything over again, with everyone. That’s not a discussion I am willing to have.”