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Santa Rosa Spanish immersion school named for Cesar Chavez

The Santa Rosa School Board voted Wednesday to name its new Spanish-language, dual-immersion school the Cesar Chavez Language Academy.

About 75 transitional and traditional kindergarten students are expected to enroll in the school, set to open in August on the Comstock Middle School campus.

In a separate vote, the board approved a one-year continued lease with the Santa Rosa Charter School, which currently uses 14 rooms on the Comstock campus.

The board's vote is expected to accelerate the ongoing debate over how the Comstock campus will accommodate not only Comstock students, but also Cesar Chavez students and the 200 kindergarten through eighth-graders and 40 preschool families who are enrolled in the Santa Rosa Charter School.

The one-year lease set the stage for the negotiations about the future of all three schools and where they will be housed.

“The problem here is we have lot of moving parts and a lease makes one of them fixed,” said Trustee Jenni Klose in advocating for no more than a one-year deal with the independent charter school.

Charter school supporters said the one-year deal will create anxiety among parents and staffers alike about the future of the program.

“You are telling our parents to start looking for a new school now; you will be telling our staff to start looking for new jobs,” said charter school teacher and parent Bill Singer.

Along with the approval of a one-year, $127,000 deal, board members requested that charter school officials meet with district officials to consider long-term locations and becoming a dependent charter.

The Comstock campus currently has space for the approximately transitional and traditional Cesar Chavez kindergarten students expected to enroll for the upcoming school year without displacing the charter school program.

But enrollment projections in future years would call for installation of portable classrooms and increased pressure on existing facilities to be used by all three schools. Enrollment projections for Cesar Chavez call for as many as 560 kindergarten through eighth-graders by 2021-22.

The lease vote followed lengthy debate over the name of the new school. The board eventually voted 5-2 on naming the school after farm worker rights leader Chavez, with trustees Laura Gonzalez and Ron Kristof voting no and expressing support for naming the school after former longtime district employee and truant officer Eugene Mijares. Mijares died in 2009 at 62.

The vote to name the school after Chavez included language to name a portion of the community school being developed on the Cook Middle School campus after Mijares.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.

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