Parents: Expand two-way language-immersion program
March 13, 2009
LAKE TAHOE ” The Two-Way Immersion Program is two years old, and already has more than enough community support to grow.
More than 15 families attended the Lake Tahoe Unified School Board meeting Tuesday to show support for the program, and ask for two kindergarten classes for next school year instead of just one. Seven parents voiced their concerns to the board during the public comment period.
“These parents are here to show support for another kindergarten class, and are willing to do anything to help the program grow,” said Kathy Haven, the parent who spearheaded the program.
This is the second year of the Two-Way Immersion Program, which is designed to teach students to become fluent in Spanish and English.
Kindergarten students are taught 90 percent of the time in Spanish, and 10 percent in English. The time of English instruction increases in second through fifth grades, Haven said. By that time, students are fluent in both languages.
Because there are more applicants than spaces in the program, the district holds a lottery to decide which kids to accept. The same system will be used to select students for the 2009-10 school year.
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The kindergarten class is made up of 20 students: 10 from English-speaking families and 10 from Spanish-speaking families. So far nine of the 10 English-speaking spots are filled by siblings of students in the program, or by children of district employees, Haven said. And 23 Spanish-speaking families have their kindergartners in the lottery in hopes of getting their children enrolled.
It’s a districtwide policy to admit student siblings and district employee children before drawing from a lottery, Haven said. There’s more than enough interest to fill two kindergarten classes, she added.
Pedro Lopez, Bijou instructional assistant, translated for Spanish-speaking parents who addressed the board. The parents said the bilingual curriculum is important for students and the community, and thanked them for supporting it.
Haven said the program has helped build relationships between English- and Spanish-speaking families, and the attendance at the board meeting is evidence of that.
“It extends beyond the classroom, because both cultures are treated equally at the school,” Haven said.
Haven said she expected the program to grow, but didn’t think it would happen this quickly.
Some parents said they might move to another school district if another kindergarten class wasn’t set up for next year.
“I’m nervous there might not be a second class, and I’d consider taking my child to another community because I want them to be bilingual,” one parent said.
Everyone acknowledged that this was a tough time to be asking the district to expand the program, but Haven said she can secure grant funding if another kindergarten class is started.
The Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation will donate $3,000 through the Foresight Fund if a second kindergarten class is started, Haven said. The foundation already has contributed funds to help start and continue the program.
Bijou already has a kindergarten teacher who could teach the second Two-Way Immersion kindergarten class, Principal Karen Gillis-Tinlin said.
The board welcomed the influx of public comments.
“These are nights we love, because you care about your schools and you care about your child’s education,” Board President Wendy David said.
The board will decide whether to add a second kindergarten class at its next meeting, on March 24.