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A.M. Winn Elementary to Stay Open

The school board voted not to close A.M. Winn at Thursday’s school board meeting.

The Sacramento City Unified School District board voted unanimously to keep A.M. Winn Elementary School open at Thursday’s board meeting. Board member Diana Rodriguez opted not to vote.

The vote supported the district staff’s recommendation to not close the elementary school, which would have required the 350 students to attend surrounding schools, including in Rosemont.

The district would not be able to provide bus service for these students. Students walking to school would have to cross major streets like Bradshaw and Routier roads and Rockingham Drive.

Many of Rancho Cordova’s public officials attended the meeting in support of keeping A.M. Winn open, including Mayor David Sander, Vice Mayor Linda Budge and Council Member Ken Cooley.

The three attendance boundary adjustments the district staff provided all have a large number of students crossing the busy streets. The first option would have been for the district to not provide crossing guards, which would be a safety issue for the students.

The second option would require two crossing guards and cost the district $16,000 for them, $370,000 for six portables at the school and $54,600 for a part-time assistant principal.

The third option would have students crossing Bradshaw and Router roads and cost the district $40,000 annually in crossing guard fees.

In addition to cost concerns, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) consultants and Planning Dynamics Group determined that the use of school crossing guards may still not be enough to keep the students safe from traffic on those streets.

“Due to these traffic safety concerns, and the updated analysis of our CEQA consultant, staff is recommending that we not close [A.M. Winn Elementary] for the 2012-13 school year,” Superintendant Jonathan Raymond said.

The district is instead looking at options of turning the A.M. Winn into a Waldorf-style school, similar to George Washington Carver.

The Waldorf-style program could begin at A.M. Winn as soon the 2012-13 school year for kindergarten. The total cost to implement the program for kindergarten is estimated at $53,500 and includes required upgrades, including wooden chairs and tables, nature tables and sandbox.

It would also include the cost of training teachers, that the district staff said could be done by other Waldorf-style trained teachers and principals in the district. Parent financial contribution is also expected.

This would change A.M. Winn from a K-6 school to a K-8. In addition, it would no longer be considered a “neighborhood” school and switch to a school of choice. However, the staff said that existing students may have priority enrollment.

One possible negative impact from switching the school to K-8 would be a possible decline in enrollment at Albert Einstein Middle School. But district staff members are hopeful that changing the school’s structure will increase enrollment in the district.

Board members preferred the Waldorf-style option over the Russian Immersion Program, which was the other option the district explored.

That estimated cost is $51,844 for the first year implementation of the Russian Immersion Program in Kindergarten. This program would not be able to begin until the 2013-14 school year. The closest location with a Russian Immersion Program is Portland, Ore.

Part of the Waldorf-style program is having a foreign language. Staff members said there is still potential to include Russian as a foreign language to meet the high Russian population in the area.

Board member Darrel Woo called the motion to keep A.M. Winn open with the changes. It was immediately seconded by board member Donald Terry.

“I think there are things we can do to improve things in the district,” Terry said after the meeting. “Finally we can be creative in a way that would increase enrollment.”

After the decision was made, Budge said she was ecstatic.

“I’m incredibly happy for the neighborhood parents,” Budge said. “The board made the right decision this time. The board is motivated to work to reinvent the school and reinvention can be a good thing.”

Michael Kast, A.M. Winn’s principal, said he was very relieved when the decision was made. Prior to the meeting, Kast said he was very happy with the support the school has received from parents, staff, students and the district.

“It’s nice to have it voted and done and not to close,” Kast said. "The district staff did what they were asked to do and they did a great job at it.”

Putting together the right design team for the school’s changes is something that Kast said is very important.

“We need to get the right voices for change that is best for everybody,” Kast said. “We need to meet people’s needs not only to increase enrollment, but for the satisfaction of the people there.”  

Parents were also excited by the news that the school would stay open and the changes that will come.

“I am glad the board is considering new ways of doing things,” parent John Moore said. “I feel that we have to start doing things differently and would welcome different formats.”

Another parent, Adriana Trevino said she was excited by the news, especially because she went to A.M. Winn when she was a child. She said she wasn’t worried about the school’s format changing.

“I think our school can handle whatever they throw at us,” Trevino said. “We’re all united.”

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