School district trustees stood by their decision to send some rural students to Williams Middle School, but their refusal to reconsider their vote won’t likely be the last word on the matter.
Legal advocates from California Rural Legal Assistance urged the Tracy Unified School District Board of Education to reconsider a vote which affirmed that students from rural Holt Union Elementary School District will be bused to Tracy schools. The board took no action Tuesday, meaning its previous vote is unaffected.
Cynthia Rice, director of litigation for CRLA, said she intends to meet with district administrators.
“We’re going to press for a meeting with the district to express our legal concerns with the process,” she said. “Until we get turned down, we want to pursue this on friendly terms to see if there is an alternative solution.”
TUSD will absorb about 80 students from Holt School when the new school year starts in August. The students in kindergarten through fifth grade will attend Delta Island School on rural Union Island north of town, and students in sixth through eighth grade will be bused to Williams Middle School on Tennis Lane.
Joana Basulto, a legal advocate with CRLA, suggested the board put the matter back on its agenda for May 22. Trustees each affirmed their votes from Feb. 27. Trustees Joan Feller and Tom Hawkins dissented on the Feb. 27 vote, stating that they preferred the kindergarten through eighth-grade structure for elementary schools, which would have put all Holt-area students at Delta Island.
Two parents, who spoke to the board through a Spanish translator, said the matter went through without their input. They presented the board with letters from about 70 parents who wanted the board to reconsider.
Basulto said the district skipped some of the legal requirements, such as an election in the Holt Union district to affirm the merger with TUSD. The State Department of Education waived that requirement after the San Joaquin County Office of Education cited potential health problems on the Holt campus from a leaking septic tank.
Prior to the vote, Delta Island Principal Ramona Soto told TUSD trustees that parents had concerns about transportation, but otherwise had no problems with the merger. Basulto disagreed and said the TUSD board should have surveyed parents before it took the vote.
“Representations made to the board were inaccurate and did not reflect the opinion of parents affected by the change,” she said.
Trustees said they had a good idea of how parents felt, and even if there were some objections they believe older students will benefit from attending Williams, which is a larger school with more course offerings than Delta Island.
“I believe the district held numerous public meetings and focus groups, making phone calls and sending letters to parents,” said Trustee Bill Swenson. “We’ve canvassed the community, and I feel we made the right decision.”