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.