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District considering closing Sierra Gardens Elementary School

Closure would result from making Eich a sixth through eighth grade campus
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Some Roseville parents are expressing concern over the possibility that Sierra Gardens Elementary School may close in 2013.

Roseville City School District says this closure would allow for the improvement of another local school and a better academic environment for students.

The district is considering changing Eich Intermediate School from a seventh through eighth grade campus to a sixth through eighth grade campus beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.

This topic was the subject of a school board meeting in November and now the district is preparing to hold four informational meetings about the potential Eich reconfiguration and Sierra Gardens closure beginning Jan. 17. The board may vote on the recommendation in late February.

The district cites declining enrollment at three local elementary schools — despite overall growth for the district — and the academic benefits of a three-year middle school as reasons for the change.

“We feel this is the direction that’s in the best interest as the district goes forward. It may not meet individual (parents’) needs,” said Superintendent Richard Pierucci.

He said the district will still meet the needs of students.

“We’re going to provide quality educational programs for their children wherever they go to school,” he said.

But some parents are upset with the news.

“(We) feel blind sided by our elected board and snow balled by the district superintendent and only request a chance to be heard before decisions are made that will affect our children’s education,” wrote Christine Rich in an email to the Press Tribune.

She has a child who attends Sierra Gardens Elementary School, which currently has about 360 students.

Another parent, Kathi Williams, spoke during the November meeting and said she doesn’t want her child bussed to another school when Sierra Gardens is located around the corner from her house.

Turning Eich Intermediate School into a middle school has been an idea tossed around by district staff for the past few years, but wasn’t seriously considered until now.

Currently, Cooley Middle School and Buljan Middle School are sixth through eighth grade campuses. The district plans to open Chilton Middle School this fall, which will serve sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Eich Intermediate School is the only school with the seventh through eighth grade system.

“We want to be consistent throughout the district,” Pierucci said. “It works a lot better for us.”

Common core standards are more conducive to a sixth through eighth grade environment, and converting Eich would allow for enhanced instructional opportunities, he said.

"Our entire staff is extremely excited," said Eich Principal Marc Buljan. "We're the only seventh and eighth grade school. It makes it tough for articulation with other middle schools. This puts us on an even playing field when it comes to academics."

Currently, kids go from a K-6 program into seventh grade at Eich, where they have six teachers a day, each with different teaching styles and subject matter.

"A lot of students struggle with that the first year," Buljan said.

Under the new model, sixth graders at Eich would have one teacher for social studies and language arts, another teacher for math and science, and a physical education teacher, for three teachers total.

"It makes the transition easier," Buljan said. "For parents who are scared about their kids going to middle school, it puts them more at ease. ... We spend seventh grade transitioning them in, and eighth grade transitioning them out. It's difficult for them to make a connection to Eich."

In 2000, Cooley Middle School opened as a sixth through eighth grade campus, and the board approved converting Buljan Middle School — then only for seventh and eighth graders — to the same system.

The current recommendation is also meant to address declining enrollment at three of Eich’s feeder schools — Sierra Gardens, Sargeant School and Crestmont School.

Enrollment for these three campuses has declined about 10 percent over the past five years, while enrollment for the district has increased about 13 percent during that timeframe. Crestmont and Sargeant each have a population in the low 400s. If the district moves sixth graders to Eich and leaves Sierra Gardens open, the three elementary schools would have a combined enrollment of fewer than 1,000 students, which Pierucci said is “very low.”

“That bodes itself for two schools rather than three,” he said. “(But) we’re cognizant and respectful of the fact that if Sierra Gardens doesn’t exist as an elementary school, this will significantly change people’s lives.”

If Sierra Gardens closes, those students would go to Sargeant School or Crestmont School. Teachers would be able to apply to open positions that would be added at other elementary schools.

Eich Intermediate School currently has about 550 students. With the transition, the population would be in the low 800s initially, and the district would likely use the Sierra Gardens site to accomodate these additional kids.

Eich's population has been low over the past decade, hovering around 550 students, while Cooley Middle School and Buljan Middle School in the west part of Roseville continue to grow and each have about 1,100 students.

 

 

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Roseville City School District informational meetings
What:
Presentation on possible reconfiguration of Eich Intermediate School from 7th through 8th grade school to a 6th through 8th grade school beginning in the 2013-14 year.
When:
6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 at Sierra Gardens Elementary School, 711 Oakridge Dr.
6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 at Sargeant Elementary School, 1200 Ridgecrest Way
6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23 at Crestmont Elementary School, 1501 Sheridan Ave.
6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 32 at Stoneridge Elementary School, 2502 Alexandria Dr.
Info: Call Roseville City School District at (916) 771-1600 or visit www.rcsdk8.org