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SSU, school district study partnership to reopen La Fiesta School

For the second time in two years, the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District is discussing plans to reopen La Fiesta Elementary School.

The campus on Limon Way has been shuttered since 2008 when Sonoma County's third-largest school district, facing mounting budget problems, closed both La Fiesta and Gold Ridge elementary schools to save $587,000 annually.

The latest proposal includes a potential partnership with Sonoma State University through which undergraduates pursuing degrees in early childhood studies would spend time in La Fiesta's classrooms through field placements.

The increased instructor-to-student ratio would allow teachers to launch unique lessons, according to Chiara Bacigalupa, associate professor of education at Sonoma State and a lead player in linking the university to the school district.

"Usually, one of the barriers to doing really interesting curriculum is not enough hands in the classroom," she said.

Both Sonoma State and Cotati-Rohnert Park School District officials must sign off on a memorandum of understanding outlining the partnership. Officials from both sides said they expect a deal to be reached.

A meeting for interested parents is scheduled for Jan. 24.

"I think it's going to be a big deal," said Sarah Rapp, a student in Sonoma State's master of education program and mother of a kindergartner in the district who has helped spearhead the plan.

"Probably the most important thing is this back-and-forth learning, ongoing learning, that will happen between professors and teachers," Rapp said. "(Professors) will provide professional development and the teachers will, in turn, provide what is really going on in classrooms."

The curriculum is being discussed as project-based, inquiry-driven and hands-on, backers said.


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