While it’s still a bit early to see results, the first year of the new bilingual education program in Denver Public Schools seems to be running smoothly and on schedule, school officials said Thursday.

A report released by the district on its bilingual education program revealed several interesting facts and a few hitches. Still, less than a year after revamping its program, there was room for optimism.

‘I’m pleased we’ve put into place answers to the resource questions that plagued us in the past,’ school board member Sue Edwards said.

Among the findings in the report:

A growing number of Spanish-speaking Hispanic families are moving into the Montbello and Green Valley Ranch areas in far northeast Denver. When Maxwell Elementary School in Montbello opened less than two years ago, there were only 45 students in need of bilingual education. That number has grown to 110 students today.

Schools in the southwest part of Denver have also seen an increase in bilingual education students.

But there are still too many unqualified bilingual education teachers. About 25 percent of the 1,000 or so teachers in the entire bilingual education program have not met required standards, such as 150 hours of training and successful completion of the state-mandated Spanish test.

‘That is totally unacceptable,’ board member Lucia Guzman said.

A year ago, DPS settled a long-standing dispute over its bilingual education program, which had been under federal supervision since plaintiffs sued the district in the 1980s, saying DPS did not provide a quality education for Spanish-speaking students.

Almost 16,000 of the district’s 70,000 students this year speak little or no English, and almost all of the 16,000 speak Spanish.

Under the old plan, students could receive unlimited Spanish instruction. But in the new bilingual program, renamed the English Language Acquisition Program, Spanish-speaking kids are mainstreamed into English classes within three years. That concerned some local Hispanic parents who said three years was not enough time.

Jose Perea, program director, said the new curriculum has made for a more consistent program from school to school.

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