McKinley Elementary School has long celebrated its diversity, holding annual World’s Fairs to honor the many cultural backgrounds of its students. But because of state regulations, the district needed to find ways to bring minority students out of principal Ginger Vail’s care and into other schools.
The Board of Education approved a plan to do this in the short term Tuesday night. For 2011-2012, the pre-kindergarten program at McKinley will move around the corner to Fairfield Warde High School’s Early Childhood Center. Superintendent Dr. David Title said that while the move would bring the school’s racial imbalance within state guidelines it would not correct the issue completely.
“While we may want to come up with a grander scheme to knock this way down, a radical solution at this point is not necessarily warranted because we’re within one percentage point of compliance,” Title says.
Minority students make up 43.37 percent of McKinley’s enrollment this year. Across all elementary schools minority enrollment is 17.58 percent, so McKinley’s “absolute imbalance” is 25.89 percent. But under state statute, no school can have more than 25 percent minority students above the district average.
McKinley’s pre-school program is open to low-income students across Fairfield. Because the percentage of minority students in pre-K is higher than in the rest of the school’s population, it has “exacerbated the school’s racial imbalance,” Title said. By moving them to the ECC, the students will no longer count toward McKinley’s imbalance. The board’s plan will also expand the ECC program at Burr Elementary, adding 16 low-income children there.
The board approved Title’s plan by a 5-3 vote. Board members Perry Liu, Sue Brand and Stacey Zahn voted against the plan. Liu said he felt the move would be detrimental to the special education students already at the ECC.
Title, however, said the move was better for all pre-school students educationally. The move adds more “typically developing peers” to the ECC, which are already part of the special ed program. And McKinley’s pre-schoolers will now attend school in a space designed for pre-kindergarten programs rather than in a standard elementary school classroom.
Fairfield’s plan still needs approval from the state Department of Education. Title will present his ideas to Acting Commissioner George Coleman Wednesday.
Do you have any other ideas for how McKinley can correct its racial imbalance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.