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Furious, Caudle and the other parents countered that they aren't bigoted--they just want other schools to carry their fair share of the "burden." Carol Gray, who says her English-speaking son has flourished in Lemire's class, was shocked. "It'd be just the same if they stood up in a white hood," Gray says. "I'm sorry, these are children, not burdens. . . . They deserve an education, no matter what color their skin is." Caudle and her group argue that the majority of the ESL students lives in Holiday Park, at the farthest edge of Tavan's attendance area. They would like to see those students sent to another elementary school. That's not likely to happen. "If we were to focus on the area where most of the ESL students come from and [try] to move those kids, that would just be, first of all, morally wrong and, second of all, probably legally wrong," says Goldsmith. "We'd be in trouble."
District officials say they are looking at other ways to alleviate Tavan's overcrowding. Denise Caudle says it may be too late for some parents. "[White] people are selling their houses and just getting out," she says. The Caudles can't move immediately, because they're in the middle of a $30,000 home renovation.
Caudle has heard that she and the other disgruntled parents will be invited to join a task force designed to address Tavan's challenges. She's not interested.
"All we want is out," Caudle says.
Her two children have been reassigned to Hopi, where there is no ESL program and where fewer than 5 percent of the students eats lunch for free. The only drawback: Hopi is overcrowded. There's a waiting list of 150 kids.
That isn't stopping white flight from Tavan.
Caudle, with a rueful chuckle, concludes, "Most of the parents that are leaving [Tavan] are the . . . ones that support the school financially. I'm sad for Tavan. I feel bad for them." Incredibly, the Caudle kids will be joined next year at Hopi by the kids of every parent on Tavan's PTA board--both the current officers and those who have been elected to serve next year. In the last days of May, Tavan scurried to elect a whole new PTA board.
Those parents, who prevailed upon administrators to approve transfers for their kids, include Betsy Wolf, who has only lived in Arcadia for a year. She didn't realize how large the ESL population at Tavan was until her son began school. She insists that she will miss the diversity at Tavan, but says she's willing to trade it for more attention for her second-grade son.
Wolf says Arcadia is "just so beautiful and nice and peaceful and safe, and I just wonder how long it's going to be that way.