At Silver Wing Elementary School on February 18, parents crowded into an auditorium to hear about Chula Vista Elementary School District’s plans to build a two-story high school charter on the elementary campus.
Many Silver Wing parents expressed frustration and one asked the presenters: “If you’ve already decided to do this, then what are we doing here? Why are you wasting our time with this meeting?”
Silver Wing is a traditional K–6 school located on the western edge of the city. For the past three years, Chula Vista Learning Community Charter high school students have been housed in portable classrooms on the Silver Wing campus. A chain-link fence separates the students.
Silver Wing parents say they were told in 2012–’13 that the high school needed a place to temporarily house students — and that was the last they heard from the district.
At the February 11 board meeting, trustees were asked to approve $3,431,011 for the charter high school.
Newly elected trustees Leslie Bunker, Francisco Tamayo, and Eduardo Reyes voted to postpone the decision until the district received input from the Silver Wing community.
Chula Vista Elementary executive director Matthew Tessier and Silver Wing principal Ruth Diaz De Leon addressed the Silver Wing parents. They apologized several times for having “dropped the ball” and not communicated since 2013.
In his presentation, Tessier reminded parents that Silver Wing Elementary has a dual-immersion (Spanish/English) program and noted that in 2013 some parents had asked how they could get their children into the dual-immersion high school. Tessier went on to point out that it's not possible at this time.
“There’s really a big difference between a zone [public] school and a charter school that’s been authorized by the Chula Vista board. Silver Wing is a zone school. If a child moves into the Silver Wing zip code, then the district has an obligation to accept that child into the school. So, if I move in across the street, my child has a right to come here to Silver Wing.
“A charter school is different. Charter schools are typically run on a lottery. So, just because you move into a specific area doesn’t mean you have a right to go to that charter school.”
In addition to the temporary high school, Chula Vista Learning Community Charter has elementary and middle-school components in Chula Vista.
A Silver Wing mother pointed out that “the charter already selects their own students and the high school has a cap on the number of students that will be accepted, so there won’t be room for all Silver Wing students.”
Tessier told the parents in order to get their children into the high school “you would have to petition the board of education to have some sort of relationship. So, an example might be 20 percent of dual-language students at Silver Wing have a special lottery to attend [Chula Vista Learning Community Charter] high school. It’s not currently part of the charter, so I can’t say.”
Parents also raised concerns about having high-school students in close proximity to elementary students. Several speakers worried that children had witnessed “public displays of affection” through the fence.
Kindergarten teacher Brenda Maldonado shared her observation that the high-school students are “extremely well-mannered and respectful.”
Ruby Baker, a first-grade teacher, said she and principal De Leon had witnessed a display together. Baker, drawing on her child-development background, commented, “It’s inappropriate to have high-school and grade-school students share the grounds.”
Another parent identified as Mr. Pulido asked how much square footage was being taken from Silver Wing. Neither of the presenters was able to respond.
Another parent asked the date of the next board meeting. Tessier said he would get back to the parents with that information.
Concerns were also expressed about two campuses sharing the same parking structure.
Principal De Leon said there are several advantages to having the high school, including a successful cross-age tutoring program. She also said that Silver Wing currently has a play area that is “unsafe,” but that would be turned into a soccer field specifically for the elementary school with funds from both Silver Wing and the charter high school.
Parent Rosa Surber received a round of applause when she stated, “I am very disappointed that the board decided to go forward with this project without even consulting with the community.”
When asked for comment on February 19, trustee Francisco Tamayo said, “We are not opposed to the high school having a place. We just want to ensure that all the stakeholders have an opportunity to weigh in and have confidence in the board’s transparency.”
Tamayo also said trustees are seeking a legal opinion about land use.
Trustee Leslie Bunker could not be reached in time for comment.
Disclosure: The author has a daughter who teaches in Chula Vista Elementary School District and is also a member of the bargaining team.