Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
A plan to transform a Cook County District 130 school into a dual-language school was rejected Wednesday, but the proposal may not be dead.
School board members voted 4 to 2 against a plan to convert Washington Elementary School in Alsip into a magnet school that would immerse students in both languages. But the board agreed to hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 5 at the school, 12545 S. Homan Ave., to discuss the proposal as well as the school’s declining enrollment. Projections indicate the student population at Washington will not support keeping the school open without making a change, Supt. Raymond Lauk said.
Several parents at Wednesday’s meeting criticized the board for not notifying them of the proposed change.
“Why didn’t anyone come to the community of George Washington?” said Kimberly Shells, president of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization. “I just don’t understand where all this came from. You just thought it would be OK to come in and scoop up our school.”
Parent Mike Jacobsen said the board missed another opportunity to “avoid animosity with the community.”
“I know you didn’t come up with this five days ago,” Jacobsen said. “It didn’t have to be this way.”
Parent Kareena Murphy also chastised the board for failing to inform the community of the proposal.
“I cannot believe this was such a secret to the community,” Murphy said. “What does it say about your character to keep this a secret?”
Lauk said a dual-language program offers enormous benefits to the students.
“The education benefits to kids are just remarkable,” he said. “This is a recommendation being made based on what’s most beneficial to the kids.”
The change, if approved, would take effect next school year, Lauk said.
In a dual-language school, content is taught in both languages to native Spanish and native English speakers alike, Lauk said.
District 130 encompasses parts of Alsip, Blue Island, Crestwood and Robbins.
Students who would have attended Washington instead would go to Nathan Hale, near 135th Street and Laramie Boulevard in Crestwood, but current students would be allowed to stay for the dual-language program, Lauk said.
About a dozen current faculty also would move to Nathan Hale primary and intermediate schools. Lauk declined to comment on the future of Washington Principal Phyllis Graham.
The move also is expected to help alleviate capacity issues at some of the district’s other schools, Lauk said.
If the proposal is approved, Washington’s enrollment likely would increase from 208 pupils to about 350, Lauk said.