Tracy Unified School District trustees face a quandary tonight. District administrators recommend the 80 or so sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from Delta Island and Holt Union schools be transferred next fall to the larger Williams Middle School, which is perhaps a 45-minute wait and bus ride away. In doing so, the district would close Holt and constrict Delta Island to a kindergarten through fifth-grade school.
However, in the last decade the school board has favored creating K-8 schools to enhance the learning environment. In fact, in 2005 it eliminated one of three middle schools, Clover, to expand North School to a K-8 campus. In the K-8 program at Delta Island, the students would be in a single class with a teacher at each grade level. At Williams, the students would have different subject teachers in different classrooms — the same as in high school.
Superintendent Jim Franco recommends the 80 students be enrolled with the 1,000 other students at Williams, where one new classroom building and four teachers would be added. The one-time cost is $46,148, with an additional annual cost of $17,073 when bussing and utilities are included.
Housing all the older Holt and Delta Island students at Delta Island would cost $149,800 for four new classrooms and four teachers. The annual utility cost would be an additional $11,765.
Advocates of sending the 80 rural teens to a city school say it would save $98,000 the first year. The district has a $100 million budget. The savings would be less each proceeding year, and by 2018 the annual costs of either option would be the same. Of course, after that it would cost more to educate Holt and Delta Island students at Williams than at Delta Island.
Tonight, the seven TUSD trustees should ask, What’s the value of a K-8 versus a middle-school education The national trend, as in TUSD, is K-8 neighborhood schools.
Based on surveys and chats, a majority of parents at Holt and Delta Island favor sending their children to a middle school because there would be more elective courses, after-school sports and clubs and cultural diversity — things students could not otherwise get until high school. The downside includes a longer bus ride each day and possible loss of the close-knit school community.
Tonight’s decision may boil down to at what age does the school board want students to start growing up fast: 11 or 14