Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Mimi Denton, Ericha Oberg and Jen Kelly

(Editor’s note: This is an open letter to the Park City School District)

We are writing as a response to the announcement of the implementation of dual immersion at McPolin Elementary School.

It is our understanding that at the start of 2012 school year, McPolin will become a full dual-immersion school for the first grade, offering no English-only options. It has been explained that McPolin does not fit the dual immersion model that Park City School District has adopted (two dual classrooms and two or more English-only classrooms) due to the class size and demographics, and that the school district and the state will not support the one dual immersion/two English-only classroom model. It is also our understanding that if families do not wish to participate in dual immersion for those enrolling in the 2012 first grade, they will be transferred to an open school and offered busing.

Next, it has also come to our attention that in 2013-2014 any new second graders who wish to attend McPolin will not be accepted for enrollment due to missing the first year of dual immersion and/or not speaking Spanish fluently. In future years this will affect every grade level and, as a result, will do away with any new student’s opportunity to attend their own neighborhood school.

Most people agree that the ability to enroll children at their neighborhood school, which is located closest to their home, is logical for many reasons and is fundamental to our public school system and quality of life. Families often purchase or rent a home in a specific neighborhood with the assumption that their children will be attending that school, thereby getting to know the other neighborhood children, play sports with them and as a result, create a tight, supportive social network.

We understand that some parents would like to see dual immersion at all elementary level schools here in the Park City School District, but are they willing to sacrifice the neighborhood school for it? In the case of McPolin Elementary School, that is exactly what will be happening! By taking away the English-only option, over the upcoming years any family that would like to enroll their school-age child older than the first grade will not be allowed to attend McPolin and will be transferred to another school.

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It has been mentioned that the plan is still subject to change, but as of now this is the option that will be implemented. As parents of school-age children attending McPolin, we can say that the teachers and staff who have been educating our children have been professional and knowledgeable and will certainly continue to be outstanding teachers, but as homeowners within the McPolin boundary we cannot support the decision. Contrary to our community master plan, this program would eventually rob diversity from the neighborhoods surrounding McPolin. Young, new families who plan on moving into this area may now be dismayed by the district decision and plan on purchasing their home elsewhere. How will that affect our homes’ value in the future? All of these things need to be addressed and presented to the community that will be affected. Even those schools that our children will be bused to have a say in the outcome.

We suggest that before the final decision is made, the Park City School District analyze the past five years and project what the school would look like today if dual immersion had been implemented five years ago. We know from our experience with the students and parents of McPolin Elementary School that dozens of students who now live within the McPolin boundaries and attend McPolin, would have been turned away if the suggested full dual immersion model had been in place when they moved here. Many of these families spend numerous hours volunteering at the school, are on the PTO, and in the classrooms. Although well intentioned, full dual immersion at McPolin would be a step in the wrong direction.

Please know that we write this not solely for the sake of our own children, but out of long-term concern for Park City’s school system and the neighborhoods in which we live.