RIVERSIDE—Arlanza and three other elementary schools with large numbers
of pupils learning English will feel the heaviest impact of the
Alvord Unified School District’s new plan to comply with Prop. 227.

“I’ll still be teaching reading in the same way,” said Naomi
Purcell, a literacy specialist who tutored many Arlanza pupils in
Spanish. “It’s just with a different language.”

Prop. 227, which passed in June, restricts bilingual education
by requiring pupils who are learning English to be taught primarily
in English. Alvord’s plan, which goes to the school board Thursday
for consideration, spells out how the district will teach its 4,187
English-language learners. Alvord serves about 17,000 students in
the western Riverside area and northeast Corona.

Alvord officials propose to immerse limited-English pupils in
English classes where teachers use special techniques and offer
some help in their native language. The plan resembles the one
drafted in the Jurupa Unified School District. It differs from the
Riverside Unified School District’s plan, which offers 40 percent
of instruction in Spanish for kindergartners and first graders
learning English.

Because of a shortage of bilingual teachers and the small
numbers of limited-English proficient pupils at some schools, most
Alvord campuses already used immersion, said Assistant
Superintendent Kathy Wright. But about four of Alvord’s 11
elementary schools have significant Spanish-speaking enrollments
and used more of the children’s native tongue, Wright said.

For example, Arlanza had been planning to launch a “late exit”
bilingual program where pupils would begin with mostly Spanish, add
English and become fully bilingual by the end of sixth grade.

“Now they’ve done an about face,” Wright said.

Other schools facing a similar shift are Foothill, La Granada
and Myra Linn elementary schools, Wright said. Middle and high
school teachers will continue to use immersion just as they did
before Prop. 227, she said. Parents will be able to seek waivers to
keep their children in bilingual classes, but Wright does not
expect a great demand. Officials should know next month how many
parents apply for waivers.

As the board prepares to vote, teachers at Arlanza are
preparing their new teaching methods. They have begun a transition
period to phase in more English. For the next month or so, teachers
of English learners will keep teaching language arts in Spanish.

Sandy De Senna, a bilingual teacher at Arlanza said her pupils
seem to understand their lessons so far. But she is concerned about
the day they must take reading tests in English.

“They’re expected to perform when they haven’t done English
language arts,” De Senna said.

The school board meets at 7 p.m. at district headquarters,
10365 Keller Ave. in Riverside.

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