Johnson Middle takes lead with immersion head start

SCHOOLS: The Westminster school's program created two years ago is dealing with a largely Vietnamese and Hispanic population.

WESTMINSTER, CA—New student registration
Recoja los papelles de matricula

Xin giay to ghi danh hoc

The sign that greeted visitors Tuesday at Johnson
Middle School illustrated the challenge facing teachers at the school and others in the Westminster School District.

At Johnson, where classes begin today, Vietnamese students make up the largest ethnic group, followed by Hispanics and then whites.

Other cultures abound in smaller numbers.

Yet Proposition 227 hasn’t prompted the uncertainty that has surfaced elsewhere as schools struggle to implement largely English instruction.

Johnson has the advantage of being in a district that in 1996 became the first in the state to get a full waiver from requirements that students be taught in their native language. The new program began a year ago.

“We’re in a situation where our focus is on continuing something that is already in place and working for us,” Principal Christine Harrison said Tuesday.

That program basically entails two teachers, Sally Isaly and Phil Hunter, and their aides teaching children who have been designated as limited-English students. Isaly teaches English and social studies, while Hunter teaches math and science. For other subjects, limited-English students are in mainstream classes, where they are assisted by “floating” bilingual aides.

Under 227, the students still will have lesson previews and reviews in their native language, but all other reinforcement by the aides must be in English.

“We will be stressing language as well as ideas,” Hunter said.

Teachers are waiting to see how many of the adolescents will show up for class with little or no knowledge of English.

“Those are the tough ones,” said Jimmy Doyle, a sixth-grade history teacher who was born in Saigon and is fluent in both Vietnamese and Spanish. “It’s very difficult for older kids to adapt to learning in a new language. “



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