Fearful that a beloved dual-language immersion program will be outlawed by Proposition 227, Saddleback Valley school board members voted this week to apply for charter school status and to create an alternative school. The program would thus be exempt from the new state initiative. School officials still must obtain approvals from the state to preserve dual immersion.

The program at Gates Elementary School in Lake Forest teaches two languages to 333 native-English- and native-Spanish-speaking students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Besides language instruction and lessons about the two cultures, the curriculum is the same as what the rest of the 776 students enrolled at the school learn.

The program is popular with parents, about 30 of whom have attended school board meetings in the last month to urge school officials to safeguard the program. “It’s a pilot program and it’s working,” said school board member Dore J. Gilbert.

State education officials are spending the summer writing regulations to implement Proposition 227, which essentially ends bilingual education in California.

Some state educators have said they hope to salvage the estimated 100 dual-immersion programs statewide despite the initiative, which received 61% of ballots cast on June 2.

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