WCCUSD halts plan to transition Richmond schools to K-8s

District parents rallying for safety at Board of Education meeting
DeJean Middle School

The West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) has put the brakes on a plan to phase out DeJean Middle School in Richmond and turn seven elementary schools into K-8 schools next year, after the plan failed to receive support from the Board of Education.

On Wednesday, WCCUSD presented the plan to begin transitioning Wilson, Nystrom, Lincoln, Coronado, Grant, King elementary schools — all part of the Kennedy Family of schools that feed into DeJean Middle — as well as Washington Elementary, from K-6 schools into K-8 schools beginning next year.

The aim was to boost education outcomes and retain students who leave the district after the 6th grade rather than attend DeJean Middle, which the district described as underperforming. In the 2014-15 school year, DeJean had 625 students in Grade 7, while in the 2018-19 school year, it had 467, the district said. 

But the Board of Education, along with DeJean staff and families, felt blindsided by the transition plan and unconvinced that it would be the correct course of action. The Board urged Superintendent Matt Duffy not to move forward without further study and outreach, and Duffy complied.

“There’s just a million questions I have about this,” Board of Education member Tom Panas said. “The analysis is no where near adequate for me.”

Board member Mister Phillips, who lives in the Kennedy Family of schools, said test scores show DeJean is outperforming or roughly on par with its feeder schools.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement at DeJean,” said Phillips. “When you look at the numbers, with the exception of Wilson, it doesn’t make sense [to transition].”

Phillips supports further exploring transitioning Wilson Elementary, which is undergoing a campus rebuild, to K-8.

Superintendent Matt Duffy said the district has been discussing the K-8 model for several years and urged the Board to further examine the district’s plan.

“When I sit up here, I hear a lot of constant demand for change,” Duffy said. “And I just want to make sure we don’t get ourselves into a situation where everybody wants change, but nobody really wants change…We have to be courageous enough to do some different things.”