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GUSD plan to increase enrollment and expand dual-language program ignites debate

December 28, 2013|By Camila Castellanos

A Glendale Unified School District plan to increase enrollment at La Crescenta-area elementary schools to allow for the expansion of dual-language immersion programs has ignited an intense debate among foothill neighbors regarding potential changes to their communities.

The GUSD plan would nearly double enrollment over a seven-year period at Dunsmore and Valley View elementary schools. Dunsmore will incorporate the expansion of the Japanese dual-language program currently held at Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School.

The board voted to approve the changes at its Dec. 17 meeting.

A community meeting last month to introduce the plan with parents and GUSD Supt. Dick Sheehan turned into a heated, emotional debate.

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Parents voiced concerns over traffic congestion at drop-off and pick-up, citing unsafe conditions with no traffic monitors. Others opposed the Foreign Language Academies of Glendale program itself, saying children in the program tended to not integrate with the rest of the school.

Valley View parent Myra Goethals noted that the advantage La Crescenta area schools has is precisely the one GUSD wants to change — its small size.

“We shouldn’t be focusing our efforts on just how to increase enrollment… These are neighborhood community schools,” said Goethals, a former PTA president. “When you can keep it smaller — and quaint — you have a greater sense of community. The test scores are some of the highest up here for a reason. I fear them pushing our numbers so high will put that at risk.”

GUSD has said it will add trailers, or “bungalows,” to the campus for auxiliary classrooms as the need for more space arises. Any currently empty classrooms would be absorbed by the dual language classes.

Other parents expressed concern that the new student influx through the FLAG program will lead to decreased space in the traditional English classes, forcing families to enroll their children at schools further away from home.

“It’s hard to leave a school because you know all the staff and teachers. My children can walk to their school, and I don’t want to change that,” said Leslie Dickson, a parent with children at Monte Vista Elementary School.

Officials have said they will not switch children to another school against their parents’ desires, and will try to keep siblings together.

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