Ventura County Star

Friday, August 14, 1998

Schools Await Bilingual Waivers
Prop. 227: District says future of education program depends on the wishes of parents
By GREGG MANSFIELD, The Ventura County Star

For the past several months, a school district committee has been meeting to discuss how to dismantle the district's bilingual education program.

What they're discovering is that the process could be very easy -- or as complicated a problem as the district has ever faced.

The Pleasant Valley School District has about 240 students in bilingual education classes which are affected by the voter-approved Proposition 227.

A large portion of those students attend El Rancho School.

If no parents sign waivers to keep their children in the bilingual education classes, the district will have few problems meeting the mandate.

But if parents do sign the waivers -- which district officials expect some will -- it will present more of a challenge. In the Oxnard School District, nearly 1,700 parents already have signed waivers.

"We're not out there encouraging people to sign the waivers," said Steve Hanke, assistant superintendent. "It's their right if they want to."

What the district is contending with is how many parents will sign the waivers. Under the law, a child must be in an English immersion class for 30 days before the waiver takes effect. So far, no parents have asked for waivers, Hanke said.

But if, for example, 23 parents sign the waiver, school officials will have to find a spot for three students whose parents signed the waivers -- because of a class-size reduction policy that mandates a school can have a maximum of 20 students in a class. That means the three extra kids could have to be bused to another school.

It's these kinds of details the committee of teachers, board members and principals has been working on during the summer.

It's expected to present a package to the board of trustees on Aug. 20.

With classes starting Aug. 31, the district hopes to meet with parents whose children will be affected by the new law.

The committee has spent the bulk of its time refining the curricula for the classes in which a majority of students would have been taught in Spanish.

Under the new law, the class must be taught overwhelmingly in English. How much of the class must be taught in English is up for interpretation, educators said.

Hanke said the district is working with the concept called "preview-review." Students would receive a brief instruction in Spanish with the remainder of the class being taught in English.

The district also is having to restructure the classes to give the students further support in the English language. It also is looking at new instructional materials for the classes.

Hanke said the district tries to quickly move students from bilingual education classes into the regular classroom.

"Our goal is to get kids the support they need," Hanke said. "We want them to succeed as always."