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Parents Upset Over Program’s Closure

While the Spokane School District asks for more parental involvement in schools, administrators have killed the district’s only kindergarten program that requires parent participation.

Low kindergarten enrollment at Garfield Elementary, the program’s host school, meant one kindergarten class had to be eliminated. With little parent interest in Garden, principal Steve Ward said he reluctantly chose the special program.

“It had everything to do with the number of kids in school,” said Ward.

But several parents see a frustrating irony in the closure. “With all this hue and cry about parent participation, the one kindergarten they closed was parent participation,” said parent Wendy Ocosta.

“That’s one class where … we’re not the teacher’s grunts, we help make decisions,” said Jody Shire, another parent. “We’re not just here to make photocopies and cut out cute pictures.”

Garden is similar to the popular Apple program, in which parents help teachers educate children. In Garden, parents spend 45 hours a year in the classroom.

But support for Garden has waned recently. Classes at Franklin Elementary on the South Hill were closed two years ago because of lack of interest, and Garfield dropped one of its two Garden classes last year for the same reason.

Just 10 students were enrolled by late summer, before Ward started recruiting both inside Garfield’s attendance area and beyond. There were 19 students in the closed class. Administrators like to have 25 students per class, but it is not a requirement.

Ward said he also closed the afternoon Garden class to ensure a teacher, Sarah Harwood, full-time employment. The teacher will teach half days at Garfield and half days at Finch, where another kindergarten class opened.

He sympathizes with the frustrated parents, some of whom live outside the Garfield attendance boundaries and chose the school specifically for Garden.

“I wish I could have had a better situation,” said Ward.

Most Garden parents are now sending their children to regular kindergarten classes. But switching rooms can be hard on the kids, parents said.

“I just don’t understand why they had to wait for school to start, to make these little guys switch over and start in a new classroom,” said Charleen Roe.

The program may still be saved. Administrator Nancy Stowell said if enough parents ask about the program this spring, the school district would consider creating a class in September 1997.

, DataTimes

Tags: education