The Santa Rosa school board last week approved moving a growing Spanish-language immersion charter school to Cook Middle School, but questions remain about the fate of the southwest Santa Rosa campus and its teachers and students.
Cesar Chavez Language Academy will relocate 4 miles south to the Sebastopol Road campus in the fall of 2019. However, it’s unclear whether the schools will merge into one, or will remain separate schools housed at one campus.
District officials haven’t provided any details on how they plan to bring the two schools together, said Kathryn Howell, a Cook Middle School history teacher. And that’s making teachers at her school nervous, particularly those who don’t speak Spanish.
“That’s the big question — of not being bilingual. A lot of us here are not,” said Howell, who also serves as the chief negotiator for the Santa Rosa Teachers Association. “What’s the role for English-language teachers in a Spanish bilingual school?”
Cook has two dozen teachers, many who have been with the district for years and only have credentials to teach at middle and high schools, Howell said. Union rules protect them from layoffs because of their seniority, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to stay at Cook, she said.
“Where will the jobs be? Moving school sites is very stressful,” she said.
Lisa Moore has been teaching at the school for 16 years. Although she speaks Spanish, she said she doesn’t have a bilingual credential necessary to teach at a dual-language immersion school.
“It’s not that easy to get it,” said Moore, who teaches math and the AVID program devoted to student development.
She’s now considering retiring at the end of next school year.
“We have four or five teachers who are considering retiring,” she said.
Santa Rosa City Schools officials, who will be meeting Wednesday with teachers and staff at Cook, said they’re working on a plan and detailed timeline.
“Answering those questions will be the work we do during the next year, and it will involve getting feedback from all stakeholders,” said Anna-Maria Guzman, an assistant superintendent.
Guzman said the district will create a committee to help with the transition. She also plans to hold meetings with parents to discuss the upcoming changes.
“Now that a site has been selected, we know who will be affected by this transition and we welcome staff, particularly at Cook, to be a part of the process,” she said.
The district started the search for a new campus after Cesar Chavez Language Academy, which has been adding a grade level every year, saw its enrollment increase fivefold to more than 300 transitional kindergarten- through-fourth-grade students since opening five years ago at Comstock Middle School. The district launched the school with 65 transitional and traditional kindergarten students, ultimately displacing the independent Santa Rosa Charter School from the Comstock campus.
Enrollment is expected to swell further as the school expands to reach the eighth grade by fall 2021.
District officials initially considered moving the charter school to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary campus on West Ninth Street, but they ultimately backed off the plan, which drew stiff opposition from parents.