By Marsha Sutton
At first I thought I had taken a wrong turn and landed by mistake at a Del Mar school board meeting, given the crowd of people outside the door.
It was an overflow crowd at the usually quiet Solana Beach School District’s board meeting on April 25, with more than 100 people trying to squeeze into the boardroom.
Parents came to protest the district’s proposed shift to full-day kindergarten this fall for the Global Education program based at Skyline School in Solana Beach.
Global Education, created about 30 years ago, is a unique educational program for students in grades kindergarten through sixth that incorporates individualized instruction with a theme-based, multi-age approach.
Skyline principal Lisa Denham called it an alternative program based on the needs of the whole child. She said the program adheres to state standards, but subjects like reading and math are typically small-group, individualized instruction rather than whole-group instruction.
Classes don’t conform to traditional grade levels. Denham said a combination grades 1 and 2 class at other schools might be a grouping of 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds in Global Ed.
Students are grouped by ability, development and age, and teachers work with students “where they’re at,” she said.
Most unique is how social studies is taught in Global Ed. For grades 4-6, students are required by the state to learn California history, American history and ancient civilization.
In Global Ed, Denham said the entire student body, grades K-6, will study one of the three themes each year and do activities all together at the end of each unit. Themes rotate year to year, and at the end of three years the cycle starts over.
Skyline houses the K-6 Global Education program and a traditional grades 4-6 education. The Global Ed program enrolls about 185 students, with only 27 spots open in kindergarten each year. Very few students leave the program, and younger siblings are guaranteed enrollment, Denham said, so there is always a long waitlist to get in.
Denham said the program is different than most others, has deep roots in the community, utilizes excellent teachers, and heavily involves parents.
It’s that parent component that has many upset.
Global Ed parent Sara Appleton-Knapp said parents were “blind-sided” by a letter sent in March from SBSD superintendent Nancy Lynch to incoming kindergarten parents, saying that this fall Global Ed kindergarten would shift from a modified day, ending at 1:15 p.m., to a full day ending at 3 p.m.
“There wasn’t parent input,” Appleton-Knapp said. “In a program where the parents are so involved, to not ask the parents what they think about it, it doesn’t seem like they’re doing their due diligence.”
When Appleton-Knapp heard about the letter, she contacted other Global Ed parents and it snowballed, resulting in over 100 people packing the April 25 school board meeting.
Under Public Comment, 14 speakers asked the board for data on the decision, reasons why parents weren’t consulted, whether teachers were on board with the change, and how 5-year-olds will cope with a longer day.