Soledad school for alternative students may close

Educators aren't meeting eye-to-eye on closing of school

SOLEDAD, Calif. - Alternative education students in one Central Coast city may be moving to a regular high school.  It's a decision students and teachers are up in arms over.  The Soledad Unified School District said it's looking to improve its 79 percent graduation rate and closing the alternative school is a part of that plan.

Teachers, students and parents want the district to wait on making a decision and to reconsider closing Chalone High School.  That's because they said the 89 kids who go there don't stand a chance of succeeding on a regular high school campus.

Teachers said they only learned about the districts discussion about closing Chalone on Monday.

"Take it into consideration that it's not just a school that you can take everybody out and shuffle them around like a deck of cards," said Chalone High School student Maritza Torres.

Torres, a Soledad Unified School District Student of the Month, is begging district leaders to keep Chalone High School open.  That's because the one on one attention she gets from the independent school is allowing her to succeed.

"If they do end up having an independent study here in Soledad High School, there's going to be so many distractions.  There's gonna be kids going up and down and all they're probably going to do is make fun of us," Torres said.

The district said it's considering closing Chalone and moving students over to Pinnacles or Soledad High School, while continuing to provide alternative programs and giving students access to better curriculum and technology.

"It's not just a matter of hey, we're going to close is and hopefully find alternative programs for you.  But to make sure that they do have their educational plans, that our district has a good plan," said Soledad Unified School District board president Fabian Barrera.

Teachers and students said it's the wrong move for kids who need the most support.

"Gifted, they are teen moms or teen parents, they're low achieving students, high risk students, there's gang problems, there's safety issues," said former teacher Sheila Bengtson.

The district said there's a disproportionate number of special needs students at the school and some students need more rigorous education.  Torres feels if she has to leave Chalone, she feels she's being set up for failure.

"You're too dumb because you need one-on-one and you aren't normal like the rest of us and that's how it was.  I don't want to be belittled just because I need a little more help from a teacher," said Torres.

On Wednesday night, the school board decided to table the issue until the July meeting.   The board plans to sit down with school administrators to come up with a plan.

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