Inclusion issue "has to be addressed" in RCCSD, admin says

Tears and high emotions dominated at Brandywine Springs Elementary Wednesday night, as the district administration's move forward with their school choice plans.

The Red Clay Consolidated School District's board of school directors voted 7-0 last night to move forward with moving English Language Learning students from their respective magnet schools back into their neighborhood schools.

The move is part of the district's long term strategic plan, particularly Goal Three, which outlines how the schools will work to close the achievement gap for all students, with a particular focus on ELL and special needs students.

At least two dozen residents, most of them members of the Latino community with students at Anna P. Mote Elementary School in Wilmington, came out because it was believed the board would be making a decision on its elementary ELL programs as well.

However, the board only voted on having Latino students from A.I. du Pont and Conrad middle schools move back into their neighborhood schools in the 2014-15 school year.

Several Mote parents addressed the board in Spanish, relying on a district translator to deliver their messages.

One speaker, Veronica Tapia, said that she didn't think her child would succeed as much as they had at Mote if they were placed back into their neighborhood schools, alongside non-Spanish speaking children.

Several members of the staff at Mote also spoke out against the move, with reading specialist Christy Chase calling the school "our quiet little secret" where students thrive.

The change from magnet schools for special education and ELL students to their neighborhood schools comes as part of the district's "inclusion" plans, which reflects state laws to give parents a choice as to where their children attend school.

Inclusion also means ELL and special need students learning side by side with the rest of their peers whenever possible.

Plans for the district to move forward with inclusion at the December 2012 meeting were tabled when dozens of residents in attendance claimed they were unaware of the decision.

Calling the move towards inclusion as "financially neutral," deputy superintendent Hugh Broomall called the move to inclusion as the right one for the students in the effort to close the achievement gap.

"It benefits them academically, it benefits them socially, it benefits them in preparing them to be college and career-oriented," Broomall said.

The district is hosting a number of information sessions prior to the March meeting.

Sessions are: Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Baltz, Brandywine Springs, Forest Oak/Meadowood, Highlands, Linden Hill and Marbrook elementary schools.

Thursday, Jan, 23, at Mote, North Star, Richardson Park, Richey, Shortlidge Academy and Warner elementary schools.

Tuesday, Jan. 28, at AI du Pont, Cab Calloway, Central School, Dickenson and McKean high schools and Heritage Elementary School.

Wednesday, Jan. 29, at AI du Pont, Conrad, HB, Lewis, Skyline and Stanton middle schools.