Teaching Spanish-speaking students some subjects in their own language during their first few school years may soon be a technique of the past in the Orange Unified School District.

Three of the district’s seven trustees will call for a comprehensive report on bilingual education during a school board meeting tonight as a first step in overturning the current program.

While students already in bilingual classes would continue there for up to two years, new students would be diverted to the proposed program as soon as September if all the approvals are made, Trustee Robert Viviano said.

“The whole idea is to get these kids fluent in English so they can go out and excel in society,” Viviano said. “We are doing this for the children. This is not a political agenda.”

Viviano was joined by Trustees James Fearns and Rick Ledesma in asking for a comprehensive study on the issue. The three constitute the politically moderate faction on the controversial board.

They are taking advantage of a new policy issued by the state Board of Education allowing districts to form their own programs as long as they meet some basic educational requirements, Viviano said.

Instead of teaching foreign-speaking students in their own language until they master English, the new program would offer the students accelerated English fluency classes outside the regular class day.

These classes include a pre-kindergarten course, tutoring and summer sessions, Viviano said.

Supt. Robert L. French said the school currently offers Spanish-speaking classes to about 1,300 students from kindergarten through second grade.

Tonight’s meeting will begin at 7 at the district headquarters, 1401 N. Handy St.



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