With close to 18,000 of its students designated Limited English Proficient, the Oakland Unified School District hopes to ensure a smooth start to the school year under the new Proposition 227 regulations by meeting with parents and determining student placements before the start of school.

Letters being mailed this week encouraging parents of English language learns to attend special orientation meetings where parents will have an opportunity to choose the instructional program that they believe is best for their child.

“We want parents to know that the Oakland Public Schools continue to support Bilingual Education, as does our community. Alameda County was one of two counties in the state that voted against Proposition 227 and our District has taken a leadership role in pursuing legal relief. Nevertheless, Proposition 227 is now the law of the state, and we must work with the new regulations,” said Superintendent Carole Quan.

Under the new regulations, all Limited English Proficient students will be placed in a structured English immersion class for one year unless parents sign a waiver requesting an alternative program. Even if parents sign the waiver, students age nine and younger must remain in the structured English immersion class for 30 calendar days before they may be placed in an alternative program.

“We want to reassure parents that they still have options for alternative programs under the new regulations, but they must come to their child’s school and discuss those options with school staff before they sign the required parent notification form,” said Superintendent Quan. She noted that personal meetings were not only necessary to ensure that parents fully understand what is being offered, but also required by law.

“Parents will find that much of our program for Limited English Proficient students remains intact. This is important because Oakland parents support our Bilingual Education program,” she continued.

Oakland joined school districts in San Francisco, Berkeley and Hayward in several legal actions to oppose implementation of the new regulations. One of these cases, concerning efforts to compel the State Board of Education to hear requests for general waivers from the new regulations, goes to court on August 27.

“We have an obligation to our students, their parents and our community to ensure that our English language learners are offered instruction that meets their needs,” Quan noted. “We believe that we are able to provide a full range of English instruction under the new regulations while keeping intact the provisions of our compliance agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and the State Board of Education under Title 6 Equal Access to Education regulations.

“The key is informing our parents and assisting them in completing the required parent notifications forms,” she said. She added that all parents of Limited English Proficient students – including those parents whose children have been enrolled in regular classes (mainstreaming) – are required to complete the parent notification forms at school.

Orientation meetings for parents will be held August 29 and 31, September 1, 2 and 3 at neighborhood schools. Parents of children at school with small populations of English language learners should contact the school office in person before the start of school.

Parents may also call the OUSD Bilingual Parent Hotline at 879-8100 to leave a message in a language other than English. Staff from the Bilingual Education Department will respond in the appropriate language.

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