Dual immersion elementary will open in August on middle school campus

The campus of Comstock Middle School will house the new Spanish-language dual-immersion charter school slated to open in August after a unanimous vote by the Santa Rosa school board Wednesday night.

The location has been the subject of months of debate, but on Wednesday night the school board chose Comstock's 24-acre site over Lewis School on Lomitas Avenue, Cook Middle School on Sebastopol Road and the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts on Mark West Springs Road.

"It's the most viable because it's the largest and we can grow at that facility," said Trustee Donna Jeye. "At the same time, I believe there is room for three of us on that facility in the beginning."

In addition to Comstock Middle School, the site also is used by Santa Rosa Charter School.

The district expects to open the dual-immersion program with one transitional kindergarten and three traditional kindergarten classes. Curriculum will be delivered in 90 percent Spanish in early years, increasing the amount of English until, in grades four through eight, it will be half English, half Spanish.

The Santa Rosa City Council chambers were packed Wednesday with Santa Rosa Charter School supporters who spoke against any plan that would displace them. They have used a facility on Comstock's campus since 2007 for their 200 kindergarten through eighth-graders and 40 preschool families.

Moving "could ruin us," said school director LaDonna Moore.

But board members expressed support for the 18-year relationship the district has maintained with the independent charter school.

Trustee Larry Haenel said he had "no intention" of ending the license agreement the district holds with the charter school. Terminating it would result in a loss of about $127,000 a year.

After the vote, Moore expressed hope that three distinct programs could share a common campus and some of the same infrastructure, including the cafeteria and driveway.

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