As a special committee mulls over how Spanish-speaking students should be taught at McKinley Elementary School, parents are still asking why they were not included in a decision earlier this year to teach non-English classes.

“We want to know why we were excluded,” said Lila Ramirez, a member of the Burbank Human Relations Council and spokeswoman for McKinley’s Latino parents, at a Burbank School Board meeting Thursday night. “And what you are going to do about it?”

Latino parents say they were not given a chance to voice their opinions when some classes for Spanish-speaking students at McKinley were changed in February from bilingual to Spanish-only.

The move prompted protests from parents, who complained that their children were being segregated.

“What we needed to do is try to help the Spanish parents understand that this is not segregation,” said Andrea Canady, director of curriculum instruction and bilingual education. Teaching some classes in Spanish only helps students learn more effectively and allows the teacher to focus on lessons, rather than having to split classes between English and Spanish instruction, Canady said.

“What we’re doing is being done all over the state,” said Canady, adding that similar programs have been started at Joaquin Miller, George Washington and Providencia elementary schools.

The changes at McKinley were made with little — if any — parental input, district officials admitted. But they said a special committee, which is chaired by Supt. Arthur Pierce and includes McKinley parent representatives, has been created since then to study bilingual programs.

“You can’t turn back and rectify what has already happened,” Pierce said. “What you can do is get on with the rest of your lives in a way that gains a better understanding between parents and staff.”

The committee has been meeting weekly for about a month, gathering information on other bilingual education programs and visiting classrooms and other school sites. Eventually, the committee will make a recommendation to the school board through Pierce as to what, if any, changes should be made in bilingual instruction at McKinley.

The committee has no timetable, but probably will make a recommendation in time for the new school year in the fall.

“We are asking the board to establish equity for all people,” Ramirez said. “I’ll accept the professional opinion. But I want them to explain it to me before they make any changes.”

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