Almost half-way into the school year, students at a Montebello school who need extra help are now being pulled out of their classrooms in an effort to address the teacher to student ratio some parents claimed had become an issue.
The change comes after a few parents complained last month to the Montebello Unified School District school board about what they claimed was an unequal distribution of resources skewed toward dual-language classes, which they said had fewer students per teacher than in other classrooms.
As a result, a program has been set up at La Merced Elementary which calls for an intervention specialist to pull struggling students from each grade out of class for about an hour a day to give them extra help.
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La Merced Elementary Principal Patricia Diaz told EGP that the pullout program is intended to help both kids that are struggling and those who are not by alleviating the number of students in the classroom. It allows the school to focus on the needs of students that require additional help, he said.
Parents of students in the program, which began the last week of November, were notified last week during their parent-teacher conferences that their child had been selected to take part in the program.
At a Nov. 15 MUSD school board meeting, parents Iris Molina, Gloria Diaz and Eric Garcia called on the board to reduce the number of students in classes at La Merced Elementary. The parents said the number of students in classes taught only in English was higher than the number of students in dual immersion classrooms — in which kindergarten and first grade students are taught in Spanish for 90 percent of the time and in English for the remaining 10 percent of the time, with the percent of English gradually increasing with each grade level.
MUSD School Board President Hector Chacon met with the parents following the meeting and agreed to meet with them to discuss the issue.
MUSD Assistant Superintendent Michael G. Cobarrubias told EGP that the district-wide target is to have 33 students to every teacher at the elementary level, including the dual immersion program that currently averages 27 students per teacher. Those numbers, he said, do not represent much of a discrepancy when compared to English-only class sizes.
Currently, there is one dual-immersion class per grade level at La Merced, with the exception of 3rd grade, which has two dual-immersion classes. If those numbers don’t hold up, Cobarrubias told EGP that mixing grade levels could be a possibility in the future.
Over the last four years, the district has faced an estimated $30 million in cuts to their budget due to state budget cuts, he told EGP. He said MUSD does not have any wiggle room when it comes to staffing, especially given that enrollment overall has declined district-wide.
MUSD wants to meet the needs of every student in the district, but a reduced budget makes that harder, he said, explaining that the board does try to address the concerns of all parents.
Cobarrubias told EGP that they look at every program district-wide and listen to the concerns of parents and teachers, and then try to come up with solutions that will most benefit students.
Intervention instructors will remain in place until the end of the year, said Diaz, adding that the pull out program would continue to be evaluated. Principal Diaz met with the concerned parents to go over the intervention program last week.
At the school board meeting on Dec.6, Gloria Diaz thanked the board for what she felt were actions taken by the district to address her concerns.
“We think because we met with you, actions were taken,” Diaz said. “We have faith that if you continue to work with us this [issue] will be put to rest.”