The Alum Rock Union School District in San Jose voted Thursday to turn an elementary school into an early learning center.
It was a long night for parents who have students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School as they watched the virtual district meeting.
“So they are basically taking out our first through fifth graders. All we’re trying to do is just keep our schools open in our community,” said Yesenia Cruz of the Cesar Chavez Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.
Cruz and other parents watched as Alum Rock Union School board members voted to transform Cesar Chavez Elementary School into an education center for children preschool through kindergarten.
Cruz told NBC Bay Area that the superintendent met with parents on campus two weeks ago and it seemed like the decision was already made.
“Once we got here, she just dropped the bomb on us. ‘OK. We’re going to turn this into a Kidango, which is basically like a daycare,’” she said.
Dr. Dianna J. Ballesteros, Alum Rock Union School District’s early learning director, said the change is part of meeting California’s universal pre-kindergarten initiative. The state initiative's goal is to help jump start children’s learning before age 5 – a year of school to bridge preschool and kindergarten.
“Environment really matters for these children. They may not have the language, but their brains are ready to learn. Children are born ready to learn,” she said.
But Cruz said many students moved to Cesar Chavez after their former school closed and she’s afraid once they’re relocated, their new school will also be closed.
“We love this school. I mean, why take it away from us?” she said.
Other parents and community leaders applauded the district’s early learning efforts but urged them to consider other options.
But, in the end, the board voted unanimously to use the Cesar Chavez campus for the center, meaning about 200 students will be moving to three different nearby elementary schools next year.