Supporters erupt in cheers: Dayton school board votes to reopen school for Residence Park, English learner students

Members of the public from Residence Park and advocates for a school for immigrant kids celebrate after the Dayton Public Schools board unanimously voted to reopen a West Side school in Residence Park for both the neighborhood and as a school to welcome immigrant students. Eileen McClory / Staff

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Members of the public from Residence Park and advocates for a school for immigrant kids celebrate after the Dayton Public Schools board unanimously voted to reopen a West Side school in Residence Park for both the neighborhood and as a school to welcome immigrant students. Eileen McClory / Staff

Dayton Public Schools plans to reopen the former World of Wonder school on Oakridge Drive, opening its doors to both neighborhood children and students who speak little to no English.

Dayton Public School board voted unanimously on the plan Tuesday after superintendent Elizabeth Lolli presented the plan to the board. The district closed the school three years ago due to low enrollment.

The Dayton Daily News was at the meeting when supporters of the proposal - both immigrant families and Residence Park neighbors - erupted into cheers after the vote to reopen the school.

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English learners would be assessed by a district team to be sent to the school for about a year, though Lolli said the English learners could leave the school earlier or later depending on the situation. The ESL students would then attend their neighborhood schools.

Lolli said there are currently 178 Residence Park students in Dayton Public Schools who would have first choice at the school’s slots. The school would open to students in kindergarten up to sixth grade for Residence Park students and up to 12th grade for English language learners, Lolli said.

“We want to make sure that the students that live in Residence Park and are currently attending Dayton Public have the first rights to those seats,” Lolli said.

The English learners would mix with the rest of the school but teachers would also work specifically with English learners so the students could learn English to continue their education, Lolli said. She said she consulted with Residence Park residents at listening sessions held at the school in April.

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Residence Park neighborhood association vice president Terri M. Sims said she was excited to see the district mix cultures, something she said would help students learn empathy.

Lolli said while the English learner classrooms and English-native speaker classrooms will be separate, there are plans to integrate the school during lunch, recess and possibly in music, art and extracurricular classes later in the year.

Jennie Valdez and her husband, Andres Valdez, who have long said they would like to see a program like this in Dayton Public Schools, said they were thrilled once the vote was completed.

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Andres Valdez, who is not a native English speaker and has two kids currently in Dayton Public Schools, said he had spoken to a 16-year-old boy recently in the area who had dropped out of school because the teenager doesn’t speak English and felt embarrassed and stupid every time he went to school. He has since dropped out and is working instead of going to school.

“He’s just one of so many of these in the area,” Andres Valdez said. “So please consider this in the future, it’s going to benefit everyone.”

Lolli said there could be a challenge with hiring teachers for the school. The district needs to hire 29 total, a mix of English as a second language teachers and regular classroom teachers. There is currently a teacher shortage, particularly among ESL teachers.

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